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Global Health

Congressional Report Details the Role Healthcare Systems Play in the Climate Change Battle

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The House Ways and Means Committee this week released a report detailing the role the healthcare industry plays in the fight against global warming.

The five-part report includes feedback from health systems, dialysis companies, nursing home corporations, community health centers, trade associations, and others, representing thousands of healthcare providers and facilities. The report details the problem, how that affects the healthcare industry, and what organizations can do to help.

“There has been very limited research examining how extreme weather events are already disrupting healthcare delivery or the ways in which emissions from our healthcare system are exacerbating the climate crisis. As our nation confronts this existential threat, the healthcare system must be a part of the solution,” U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-MA, committee chairman, said in a statement upon the report’s release.

In March 2022, lawmakers issued a request for information to the healthcare industry to learn how extreme weather events are affecting operations and how health systems have responded. The report issued this week is an aggregation of data and responses.

Of 63 respondents, 54 reported experiencing at least one extreme weather event in the last five years; more than half reported five or more episodes over that period. These disasters led to disruptions in operations and inflicted millions of dollars in damages. However, only one-third of respondents indicated they had implemented formal climate action or preparedness plans to protect against future disasters.

Some respondents indicated their organizations had taken detailed steps to shrink their carbon footprints, in some cases leading to millions of dollars in cost-savings. A total of 14 of 63 respondents were classified as “climate innovators” for their ongoing work to lower emissions and track progress.

“The U.S. healthcare system is only beginning to feel the damaging effects of climate change. But it’s clear that more climate-related weather events and rising emissions will continue to worsen health outcomes, and the time for action is now,” Chairman Neal said to kick off a committee hearing on the issue this week. “Making important upfront investments will not only protect our healthcare systems from weather-related risks, but will also offer potential cost savings to organizations and the healthcare system.”

For more information on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of ED Management and Healthcare Risk Management.