FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – Essential hospitals are taking steps to make themselves and their communities resilient to climate change and to reduce their own carbon footprint, but they face financial and other barriers to these goals, a new report from Essential Hospitals Institute shows.
The report, The State of Climate Resilience and Climate Mitigation Efforts at Essential Hospitals, points out that the vulnerable people and communities essential hospitals serve are those most susceptible to the effects of climate change, such as flooding, heat waves, and food shortages. While essential hospitals, as community anchors, are well-positioned to influence environmental and social factors to build climate resiliency, their mission leaves them with little or no margin and limited resources to make these changes, the report notes.
But even with that constraint, many essential hospitals report an active commitment to building resiliency inside and outside their walls and to mitigating their impact on climate change, including through planning, infrastructure improvements, and community and coalition partnerships.
“We found that even as health care contributes to climate change, our hospitals embrace their responsibility to be part of the solution,” said Kalpana Ramiah, DrPH, MSc, vice president of innovation for America’s Essential Hospitals and the Institute’s director. “They’ve made notable progress toward resiliency and mitigation, given the persistent financial and staffing limitations they face.”
A survey of the association’s more than 300 members found 85 percent of respondents have installed or plan to install energy efficient lighting, and 68 percent have upgraded or plan to upgrade heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to reduce energy use. Essential hospitals also reported meeting 56 percent of their total energy needs through renewable resources. Other frequently cited measures to reduce energy consumption, water use, and solid waste included medical equipment upgrades, room lighting occupancy sensors, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and recycling, the survey found.
Essential hospitals also reported monitoring energy and water consumption, setting energy consumption targets, and maintaining plans to cope with electrical grid failures, communication disruptions, flooding, food shortages, and other consequences of severe weather. Two-thirds of respondents said they work with waste management companies to achieve resiliency and mitigation, and more than 40 percent reported partnerships with renewable energy companies or government agencies.
Regarding challenges to carrying out climate resiliency and mitigation work, 80 percent cited competing funding priorities and 73 percent pointed to limits on staff time. About a quarter reported a challenge winning the support of senior hospital leaders for climate resiliency projects, especially absent a clear case for improved operational efficiency and financial benefits.
The report, produced with support from The Kresge Foundation, makes five recommendations to policymakers and funders to promote and support climate resiliency and mitigation work at hospitals:
- educate hospital leadership and governing bodies about climate resiliency and health;
- set goals for sustainability and resilience practices;
- invest in climate resiliency and sustainability;
- identify practices with an immediate return on investment; and
- promote coalitions and partnerships to identify promising practices and set goals.
“Essential hospitals have long worked outside their walls to improve health care, and we find that experience carries over to other challenges that require a broad community response, such as climate change,” Ramiah said.
The State of Climate Resilience and Climate Mitigation Efforts at Essential Hospitals is available for download from the America’s Essential Hospitals website.
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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.
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.