Environmental factors and other social determinants of health weigh heaviest on the vulnerable people our hospitals serve, and climate change threatens to make matters worse
February 11, 2021
In a second phase of work to help hospitals build climate resiliency for their communities, America’s Essential Hospitals will educate its members about how climate affects health and health equity and energize them to embrace resiliency and sustainability.
The work, part of a Kresge Foundation–supported project, follows a 2019 climate resiliency report from Essential Hospitals Institute, the association’s research entity. That report, part of the project’s first phase, identified a lack of strategic leadership and funding as the main barriers to broader hospital adoption of climate resiliency programs.
In this new project phase, the Institute will convene essential hospital leaders at regional meetings to raise awareness of the relationship of climate change to health equity and essential hospitals’ mission of caring for underrepresented people and underserved communities. It also will develop a framework for an Action Learning Cohort, a network of essential hospitals that will share knowledge, ideas, and experience to put climate resiliency plans into action.
“Environmental factors and other social determinants of health weigh heaviest on the vulnerable people our hospitals serve, and climate change threatens to make matters worse,” said Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. “This project will activate our members to confront and mitigate this threat.”
The U.S. health care system accounts for 8.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and health care emissions have risen 6 percent from 2010 to 2018. The health impacts of climate change are similar in scope to preventable medical errors and disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color. Climate change has sparked a national conversation about how to build climate resilience and sustainability in health care to enhance equity.
Some essential hospitals have taken noteworthy steps toward this goal, and the Institute project seeks to engage more hospitals in climate resiliency work.
“Essential hospitals have extensive experience making the lived environment better in communities that face the greatest environmental threats to good health,” said Kalpana Ramiah, DrPH, MSc, Institute director and the association’s vice president of innovation. “By engaging our members with this project, we will help them not only support patients but also make their communities at large more resilient to climate change.”
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About America’s Essential Hospitals
America’s Essential Hospitals is the leading champion for hospitals and health systems dedicated to high-quality care for all, including the vulnerable. We support our more than 300 members with advocacy, policy development, research, and education. Communities depend on essential hospitals to provide specialized, lifesaving services; train the health care workforce; advance public health and health equity; and coordinate care. Essential hospitals innovate and adapt to lead the way to more effective and efficient care. Learn more at essentialhospitals.org.
About Essential Hospitals Institute
Essential Hospitals Institute is the research, education, dissemination, and leadership development arm of America’s Essential Hospitals. The Institute supports the nation’s essential hospitals as they provide high-quality, equitable, and affordable care to their communities. Working with members of America’s Essential Hospitals, we identify promising practices from the field, conduct research, disseminate innovative strategies, and help our members improve their organizational performance. We do all of this with an eye toward improving individual and population health, especially for vulnerable people.
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