25,000 Health Facilities Across India Are Transforming Public Health Systems to Address Growing Critical Climate Issues

Aerial view of Khudei Khunou Health facility in North East India

DELHI, India– In 2021, WHO identified climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. While half of the world’s population continue to lack access to essential health services, according to a 2019 Health care climate footprint report, if the healthcare sector were a country, it would be the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet.

In a significant step towards transforming the public health infrastructure for improved sustainability, SELCO Foundation and IKEA Foundation, in partnership with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) and various State Health Missions, have launched a groundbreaking initiative ‘Energy for Health’. The program recognises climate adaptation and mitigation at the center to all efforts to upgrade the public health facilities across the world.

Speaking about the significance of this program globally, Dr. Maria Neira, Assistant Director-General a.i., Division of Healthier Populations, and Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at the World Health Organization said, “Reliable electricity in health-care facilities is essential to save lives and to provide quality health care. And yet, one billion people around the world are still served by health-care facilities without reliable electricity or with no electricity access at all. Decentralized renewable energies represent a key opportunity to accelerate electrification of health-care facilities, including in remote areas. I congratulate the Government of India and our partners from Selco Foundation and Ikea Foundation for this critical program, which will have a transformative impact on strengthening the health system”.

The first-of-a-kind initiative will bring solar energy solutions with efficient medical and electrical equipment to 25,000 healthcare facilities in 12 states by 2026. Across the 12 states under this program, there is a diversity in terms of topography, socio-economic vulnerabilities, disease burden and climate. This diversity across selected geographies will contribute to this programme serving as a showcase globally- innovating on approaches, models and processes relevant for similar contexts in other parts of the world.

Reflecting on India’s leadership in the effort, Dr. Harish Hande, CEO of SELCO Foundation said, “Affordable and equitable access to healthcare is a function of two aspects- one, resources required to deliver health care, and two, cost of accessing health care. Through this program, SELCO Foundation and IKEA Foundation, along with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) and various State Health Missions, will showcase at scale how sustainable energy can be used to make health services affordable at the doorstep of the poor.”

‘Energy for Health’ initiative brings with it positive impacts across the spectrum of stakeholders- for last mile communities in their access to timely healthcare; for health facility staff in ensuring a conducive work environment to provide quality services; for health sector in reducing energy and equipment-related costs as well as avoiding wastage of vaccines and other critical resources; reinforcing climate resilience building and carbon mitigation efforts while ensuring positive health outcomes for all citizens.

Mr. Per Heggenes, CEO of IKEA Foundation said, “‘At the IKEA Foundation, we strongly believe caring for the health of people and our planet must go hand-in-hand. This initiative will improve healthcare outcomes and reduce emissions, by providing reliable and renewable energy to thousands of clinics. Our hope is that the success of this programme can serve as a model for building effective and efficient health systems globally.’

Supported by IKEA Foundation, through this initiative, SELCO Foundation along with Government of India will create systems and processes that demonstrate ownership, management, and regular maintenance of the energy systems and appliances. Together, through the 25,000 public health facilities, technical knowledge and capacity, as well as guidelines and policies that enable health staff at different levels to plan for public health infrastructure in a sustainable manner will be improved. The program will also improve the local technical network for solar energy, which could potentially also have indirect impacts on local economies and boost adoption of solar energy across other sectors as well.

The initiative aims to reach over 170 million people across the 12 states and improve working conditions for over 160,000 front line health staff at these health facilities. Across the 25,000 public health facilities, this will add ~100MW of solar energy capacity in the country, and mitigate over 3 million tonnes of CO2e emissions over a 20 year period. These will directly contribute to India’s Net Zero targets, while also creating a paradigm shift on how health targets can be achieved for resource constrained communities across the world in an efficient manner.