In a new report, Essential Hospitals Institute assesses the resilience of essential hospitals to extreme weather events and other effects of climate change and the steps they are taking to mitigate their contribution to this problem.
The report, The State of Climate Resilience and Climate Mitigation Efforts at Essential Hospitals, details how essential hospitals carry out infrastructure changes and work with community partners to build resiliency, as well as the challenges they face in this work.
Health care is responsible for an estimated 10 percent of carbon emissions in the United States, creating significant issues for the environment and for public health. As essential hospitals consider how their energy consumption, water use, and waste contribute to climate change, many are stepping up to improve their processes, reduce energy and waste, and promote sustainability in their communities.
The downstream health impacts of climate change disproportionately affect the vulnerable populations essential hospitals serve. Exposure to extreme heat and air pollution affect children, elderly individuals, and those living in poverty more than other populations, resulting in poorer health outcomes and higher risk of heat-related illnesses and respiratory diseases, such as asthma.
Essential hospitals are on the front lines of care for the people and communities most affected by the immediate and devastating outcomes of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other extreme weather. These hospitals recognize that their responsibility to provide high-quality care for these communities rests on their ability to maintain operations and improve the resilience of their buildings. In this report, the Institute explores ongoing work by essential hospitals toward these goals and makes five recommendations for policymakers and funders to support resiliency work:
- 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.
The Institute thanks The Kresge Foundation for financially supporting this work and acknowledges the contributions of essential hospital members who participated in the project survey, interviews, and stakeholder forum.