The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) recently released new tools to accelerate health sector action to protect people living in the U.S. from the growing health threat of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening climate resiliency.
According to 200 medical journals, climate change is the most significant threat to human health in the 21st century. The World Health Organization projects that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause about 250,000 additional deaths each year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress alone.
“Fostering a resilient and sustainable health sector is critical to HHS’ mission of enhancing the health and well-being of Americans,” said Secretary Xavier Becerra. “By connecting the health sector to the transformative power of the Inflation Reduction Act, HHS is helping catalyze lasting change.”
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law by President Biden in August 2022, provides billions of dollars in grants, loan programs, and tax credits that can help transform the health industry by funding resilient and renewable infrastructure. Last week, OCCHE released the Quickfinder for Leveraging the IRA for the Health Sector, which identifies and explains how the health sector can use IRA programs and incentives to advance climate action. Many of these investments have the potential to improve care, increase preparedness, and reduce costs through investments in renewable energy, including building efficient and resilient infrastructure that can better handle climate-related threats to operations.
“The health sector represents about 20% of the U.S. economy and more than 8% of the country’s carbon emissions, so strengthening the resilience of healthcare providers and suppliers and decarbonizing the sector is critical for protecting our well-being and fighting climate change as a nation,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine. “Ultimately, climate change solutions are health equity solutions because they protect the most vulnerable among us.”
The Quickfinder is part of OCCHE’s Health Sector Resource Hub Health Sector Resource Hub, a central location featuring supports for health sector sustainability and climate preparedness from across the government. Those supports include another new resource: Guidance for the Health Sector on using the Environmental Protection Agency’s free benchmarking tool ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager. The guidance explores how different providers and suppliers might use Portfolio Manager to track building-related energy and greenhouse gas emissions, starting with basics like how facilities can identify their appropriate property type.
Since the Pledge was first announced, hundreds of organizations have begun work to meet its ambitious emissions reduction and climate resilience goals. These include organizations like AdventHealth Orlando, which has installed more than 1,800 solar panels on its parking garage (a project that it anticipates will save $4.6 million in energy costs and make it the largest solar project within Orlando city limits), and Valley Children’s Hospital, the only Level II Children’s Hospital between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles basin, which has completed its first Greenhouse Gas inventory and decided to move forward with creating a major renewable microgrid of the kind recently made more feasible through a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services waiver in March 2023.
The pledge is still open and health sector groups are being encouraged to sign the pledge and join the growing movement to build a healthier, more resilient future. OCCHE plans to continue to feature signatory stories – and release more tools and IRA guidance – in the months to come. OCCHE also plans to have webinars on IRA programs and policies and other relevant tools and supports over the course of the spring and summer.