Health Care Climate Leadership: The Top 3 Trends To Look Out For In 2016

2015 was a big year for climate action. In August, President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan, limiting carbon pollution from U.S. power plants for the first time in our history and demonstrating a serious commitment to addressing climate change and its impact on human health. Rounding out the year, COP21 resulted in nearly 200 nations adopting the first global climate action treaty. Looking ahead, 2016 promises to build on this progress with three emerging trends in climate action in the health care sector.

1. Increased health care leadership on climate action

Capitalizing on this momentum, a new paper from Kaiser Permanente’s Tyler Norris and the Democracy Collaborative’s Ted Howard explores how “all in for mission” is the emerging health care model. Health care’s role in creating healthy communities is being complemented by a higher impact approach: hospitals and integrated health systems are increasingly stepping outside of their walls to address the social, economic, and environmental conditions that contribute to poor health outcomes, shortened lives, and higher costs in the first place. Addressing the social determinants of health through climate leadership will have measurable impacts on the health of the communities we serve, and will continue the trajectory of health care leadership beyond Paris.

2. Mission-based investments

Dignity’s mission-based investment leadership is an example for other health care leaders to follow in alignment with the Hippocratic Oath. Climate change is the greatest public health opportunity of the 21st century, and health care leaders can capitalize on this opportunity by ensuring that their investment policies proactively support our stated mission to First, Do No Harm.

3. Employee Engagement

For example, Gundersen Health System recently initiated an employee sustainability leadership program, educating nurses on environmental engagement both at work and at home. Phoebe Breed, Surgical and Digestive Care Unit Nurse, led the Gundersen nurse leadership program. Reflecting on the need to engage employees, she stated, “Sustainability is deeply individual. We have to encourage people to dig deep and find how sustainability matters to them. That’s what enables lasting change and success.”

Looking Ahead

In the words of Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, “climate change will be the defining issue for health systems in the 21st century. Health professionals have the knowledge, cultural authority, and responsibility to protect health from climate change.” 2016 promises to build on this leadership around climate action.

By Christina Quint, U.S. Communications Assistant, Health Care Without Harm.

Follow Christina on Twitter@SustyAdvocate

Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform health care worldwide so the sector reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a leader in the global movement.

Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform health care worldwide so the sector reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a leader in the global movement.