Healthcare sustainability has been dominated by a strong fiscal orientation. In an era of budget cuts and staff reductions, the financial challenges in Canadian healthcare are immediate and must be addressed. However, an independent focus on financial viability is too narrow a framing; too limited to allow for the kind of creative, novel, and even radical thinking that is required to fundamentally alter the current course of healthcare in Canada and internationally. Prospects for solving the current financial challenges are likely to be greatly enhanced if we simultaneously account for the broad and interrelated dimensions of sustainability. What would a healthcare system look like if sustainability were adopted as the focal and principal goal? And what might a “deep” sustainability orientation imply for how we think about and manage healthcare systems? This analysis is informed by the notion that healthcare systems are fully contained within the societal system, which is itself fully contained within the broader ecological system. This model, which foregrounds nature as the most fundamental and important system, has both greater ecological validity and particular relevance to the healthcare context given the interdependence between the health of natural systems and the health of humans. Our understanding of nature in relation to health may be key to solving or at least reducing the economic burden of healthcare. A multidimensional systems orientation thus has the potential to unveil new modes of thinking that highlight intersectoral relations, communications, collaboration, and cross-boundary learning for improved health and wellbeing, healthcare performance, and sustainability.
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