WellSpan Health was recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) on Nov. 10, for pledging ongoing action to make health care facilities more sustainable and resilient to the effects of climate change. WellSpan Health has formally committed to reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and has already begun to take steps across the health system.
“The WellSpan Health team is excited to embark on this effort as part of our commitment to reimagine healthcare. Our sustainability strategy is just another way we are taking action to improve the health of our patients and team members, as well as all our friends and neighbors across South Central Pennsylvania,” said Roxanna Gapstur, Ph.D., RN, president and CEO of WellSpan Health. “Together, with other leading health systems across the country, our collective impact will be tremendous.”
The health system announced significant clinical and operational changes last month, including partnerships with local suppliers, greening of clinical operations, and increased water and energy conservation through efficiencies in business operations.
A September 2021 consensus statement from more than 200 medical journals named climate change the number-one threat to global public health. It exposes millions of people in the United States to harm every year — with disproportionate impacts on communities that are often already more vulnerable through increases in extreme heat waves, wildfires, flooding, vector-borne diseases, and other factors that worsen chronic health conditions. The healthcare sector also contributes to climate change, accounting for approximately 8.5% of U.S. domestic emissions.
The HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, developed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge to help focus industry response to climate challenges. In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, signatories also commit to producing detailed plans to prepare their facilities for both chronic and acute catastrophic climate impacts.
In the U.S., 102 prominent health companies have signed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge, including organizations representing 837 hospitals as well as leading health centers, suppliers, insurance companies, group purchasing organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and more. Federal systems such as the Indian Health Service (IHS), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and Military Health System (MHS) are working together to meet similar goals to those these private sector organizations have embraced. Combined, this means that over 1,080 federal and private sector hospitals have made such commitments, together representing over 15% of U.S. hospitals.
“HHS returns this year to COP27 to report great progress,” said Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. “Through the efforts of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity and several other HHS agencies, we have made significant strides in introducing resources and supports to help communities and care providers accelerate their work to reduce harmful emissions and increase climate resilience in the health sector.”
For more information about how WellSpan Health is responding to our nation’s climate challenges, visit https://www.WellSpan.org/Sustainability.