The effects of climate change are apparent across the United States. Americans see the impact in their daily lives through extreme temperatures, degraded air quality, and more frequent and intense climate shocks like floods, heat waves, and droughts. Without concerted action, these effects will only increase in scale and frequency.
Climate change negatively impacts population health in many ways, including heat-related adverse medical events and deaths, respiratory complications and chronic diseases linked to poor air quality, and increased exposure to waterborne and vector-borne illness. It also causes anxiety, depression, and grief — even posttraumatic stress disorder. Moreover, climate events can cripple health systems and disrupt the provision of care in both the short and long term. These negative effects disproportionately impact people of color, people with low income, older adults, people with disabilities, and children. Climate change is both a health crisis and an equity crisis.
Health care is part of the problem. The U.S. health system accounts for 8.5 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions — a larger percentage than any other country. Health care organizations have both the opportunity and obligation to reduce emissions that come with the industry’s size, its large carbon footprint, and its mission to improve health. Indeed, effective strategies for addressing climate change are essential attributes of high-performing health system.
The Commonwealth Fund’s Climate Change and Health Care initiative seeks to promote the decarbonization of the U.S. health care system. We are currently funding in the following areas to achieve this long-term goal:
- Policy: Advance policies and regulations that can help accelerate the decarbonization of the health care delivery system, including the refinement or removal of current policies that hinder decarbonization.
- Practice: Develop and equip health systems with the justification, motivation, tools, and resources to create the will, commitment, and ability to reduce their carbon emissions.
- Measurement: Support new academic research to measure, compare, and reduce the health system’s carbon footprint.
The prime target audiences for this work are federal policymakers, health care executives, and sustainability leaders. Other key audiences include state policymakers and the health care workforce.
For more information, email Lovisa Gustafsson, Vice President, Controlling Health Care Costs, at [email protected].
2023 Program Funding Priorities
Advance policies and regulations that can help accelerate the decarbonization of the health care delivery system, including the refinement or removal of current policies that hinder decarbonization
Develop and equip health systems with the justification, motivation, tools, and resources to create the will, commitment, and ability to reduce their carbon emissions
Support new academic research to measure, compare, and reduce the health care system’s carbon footprint