Jamie Harvie

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= Coordinating director of the Food Commons Project; Executive Director of the Institute for a Sustainable Future


"Jamie Harvie is the Executive Director of the Duluth, MN based Institute for a Sustainable Future (ISF) and founder of the Commons Health Network. He is nationally recognized for his extensive experience at the nexus of health, community, environment and health care. He led the national health care mercury phase-out initiative, which included negotiation with the top US retailers to voluntarily eliminate the sale of mercury thermometers, and the successful coordination and passage of mercury product legislation across the United States and globally.

Jamie founded the Healthy Food in Health Care initiative, in which he directed a nationwide collaboration of NGO’s, farmers, clinicians and healthcare partners to create food policy and practice change models. This work included the development of the Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge, a nationally adopted hospital commitment to support food that is healthy for people, communities and the planet. Additional elements of this work included serving as faculty at the Culinary Institute of America, and the development of education and training for clinicians, food service contractors, and community organizers. He served on the steering committee for the Green Guide for Health Care--the health care sector’s only quantifiable sustainable design, construction and operations toolkit--and led the creation of the nation’s first health care sustainable food service metrics and benchmarks.

Jamie initiated the Commons Health Network, which has developed a new integrative, placed-based, health creation framework. Commons Health hosts an annual conference and facilitated the successful implementation of the first dozen sugary beverage-free hospitals in Minnesota along with measurable local food hospital commitments which have served as models for the Midwest and the nation. Jamie is a founding member of the Creating Health Collaborative, a global collaborative of health care, community and clinical leadership working to create health outside of health care.

In 2009, Jamie was awarded the NRDC National Thought Leader award for his work on sustainable food systems and health care. In 2013, along with Michelle Obama, he was included as one of “Top 20 Most Influential” food system leaders by Food Service Director Magazine. In 2015, he received the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Achievement Award from the Minnesota Public Health Association for his contributions to public health in Minnesota. Jamie serves on the boards of The Food Commons, Growing Farms and the Duluth Whole Foods Coop.

Jamie speaks internationally on systems/integrative thinking, the health commons, and ecological health and prevention issues, for diverse audiences such as the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, Integrative Medicine for the Underserved (IM4US), American Dietetic Association, American Medical Students Association, Clean Med, Canadian Dietetics Association, Healthy Foods Healthy Lives, Integrative Health Symposium, Mercury-Free Health Care – Malaysia, and Health Promoting Hospitals – China.

Jamie has consulted on pollution prevention for clients including the Blue Green Alliance, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, City of San Francisco, World Health Organization and the Chinese Environmental Protection Agency. He is the author on numerous health and prevention journal articles and is a contributor to the textbook Integrative Medicine, 3rd Ed."


Jay Walljasper:

"For health care activist and researcher Jamie Harvie, good health depends on more than just a good doctor and the right medicine. “Only about 10 percent of our health is determined by medical care,” explains Harvie, who helped direct the campaign to ban toxic mercury thermometers. “The rest is environmental and behavioral—clean air, clean water, good food. We can’t be healthy people if our communities aren’t healthy.”

Executive Director of the Institute for a Sustainable Future based in Duluth, Minnesota, the focus of his work is now “commons health care”—which means taking a broader, deeper look at all the factors affecting our health.

Harvie says health care providers and institutions must begin connecting the dots that link disease with environmental pollution, climate change, toxic chemicals, poor nutrition and poverty. “It’s about clinicians and the community coming together to improve the health of the community. How does a hospital support local food, affordable housing and other benefits?”

In The Case for Commons Health Care, an article published earlier this year in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, he highlights how a tragedy of the commons is underway in health care, agriculture, and our global climate. “We are all to familiar with examples of how the unnecessary overutilization of healthcare, the race for medical technology and the entrenched medical interests is ultimately bankrupting our entire health care syste,” he writes.

Harvie goes on to reference Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom’s work, which shows “the tragedy of the commons is not predestined. Moreover, that through a set of community based rules and conditions this tragedy can be averted.”

But how? Through the creation of “a commons healthcare system [that] would recognize, promote, and preserve health promoting activities and institutions such as farmers markets, community gardens, better food access, and increased farmland, clean air and clean water.”

In September, Harvie’s organization organization facilitated a network of clinicians and community members to urge hospitals to embrace three common sense prevention goals. The Commons Health Hospital Challenge, calls for health institutions to serve local, sustainable food, stop serving sugar-sweetened beverages and adopt the World Health Organization’s Baby Friendly Hospital Guidelines on breastfeeding. Pointing to spiraling healthcare costs, the global burden of obesity-related disease and the ecological impact of some medical practices, the document offers a “reminder that we all share in the health of one another, our communities and the health of the planet.”

Surprisingly, Harvie’s professional background is not in health care. He grew up in rural Quebec and studied civil engineering and physiology at McGill University in Montreal, applying his skills on development projects in rural Nicaragua before settling down to an engineering job in Toronto. But a romance drew him to Duluth, where he got involved with an EPA-funded pilot project to create a zero-discharge waste program in order to protect the waters of Lake Superior. That’s when Harvie realized the widespread dangers of mercury poisoning from hospitals and clinics. “What an incredible irony that health care was poisoning people around the planet!”

This led him to join Healthcare Without Harm an international coalition working to prevent environmental hazards health care industry and, in 2000, to form the Institute for a Sustainable Future. In recent years he’s found the commons framework valuable in exploring and explaining his mission. “I started hearing about the commons and it just made sense on all of this.” (http://onthecommons.org/why-health-care-commons)

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