This fall, healthcare organizations took an exciting step alongside the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27).
According to Fierce Healthcare, more than 100 healthcare organizations — such as healthcare systems, payers, drug manufacturers, associations and others — signed the Biden administration’s greenhouse gas pollution and climate resilience pledge.
Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement, “The organizations that signed the pledge are demonstrating to the health sector that climate smart investments are not only possible but are becoming standard for the industry.”
This move by the HHS comes on the heels of an earlier Earth Day resolution from April 2022, when the organization called on hospitals and healthy systems to voluntarily pledge to cut emissions to zero by 2050.
Climate change can exacerbate existing healthcare disparities, and extreme climate events can disrupt health systems entirely. Hospitals may need to be evacuated, facilities may be damaged or closed, power outages may disrupt care, and damaged roads or transit systems may prevent people from getting to health facilities.
The new commitment by the HHS includes some heavy hitters in the healthcare industry, among them Kaiser Permanente, Elevance Health, DaVita, CommonSpirit Health, Pfizer, University of California Health, the Joint Commission, and the National Academy of Medicine.
Overseas healthcare systems are taking note as well, with HHS announcing a new joint plan with England’s National Health Service to address healthcare supply chain emissions.
Health care in the U.S. contributes to the job market, the GDP, and to greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent congressional report, “The healthcare sector represents nearly a fifth of the nation’s gross domestic product and was responsible for 10% of the nation’s smog formation, 12% of acid rain, 9% of criteria air pollutants, 1% of stratospheric ozone depletion and 1% to 2% of carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic air toxins.”
A massive industry like health care taking carbon emissions seriously is a huge step in combating the negative effects of climate change.
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