Mass General Brigham joined the Biden Administration for a White House event on June 30 with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where Niyum Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer at Mass General Brigham, and Jonathan Slutzman, Director of the Center for the Environment and Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, and industry colleagues pledged meaningful action to decarbonize the health care sector and make health care facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Mass General Brigham has committed to meet the Biden administration’s climate goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and is already taking steps to reduce its climate impacts. The White House event will offer a sector-wide display of cooperation between Mass General Brigham, its private sector peers, and federal health systems.
Mass General Brigham acknowledges the important intersections between climate change, human health, and health care delivery. To support these efforts a Climate and Sustainability Leadership Council was established. This group is responsible for organizing a strategy for achieving our goals in three principal areas: eliminating our contribution to climate change and pollution, promoting health equity through environmental justice, and transforming climate and sustainability through research and education. Mass General Brigham is resolute in its commitment to reducing its environmental impact and meeting the evolving needs of the populations it serves in the face of a changing climate.
In September 2021, 200 medical journals named climate change the number one threat to global public health. Millions of people living in the United States already experience associated harm —with disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged and underserved communities—through more frequent and intense periods of extreme heat, wildfires, flooding, vector-borne diseases, and other factors that worsen chronic health conditions.
The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), part of HHS under the Assistant Secretary for Health, developed the health sector climate pledge in conjunction with the White House to help focus industry response to climate change. In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, signatories also commit to producing detailed plans to build climate resilience for their facilities and the communities they serve.
The White House event included leaders from companies and organizations representing hundreds of hospitals and numerous health centers, as well as pharmaceutical companies, medical device-makers, suppliers and group purchasing organizations. The health care sector accounts for approximately 8.5 percent of U.S. domestic climate-warming emissions.
“Public health decisions have to be based on the realities of climate change, and we all need to do more to make that happen at the national level,” said ADM Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. “We’re seeing right now what extreme temperatures and more severe storms can do to human health, environmental quality and our physical infrastructure. It’s great to see so many different companies and organizations come together to decarbonize and become partners in protecting human health from climate change. Today’s announcement is just the beginning of a longer ongoing effort with partners from across the medical sector, which is exactly the kind of big response we need as a country.”
The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) plays a vital role in protecting the nation’s health from climate change-related risks, including extreme heat, natural disasters, vector-borne diseases and more. OCCHE is looking forward to providing technical supports to companies that wish to reduce their environmental impact and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change, setting national health goals and objectives and supporting programs, services, and education activities that improve the health of all Americans. OCCHE is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To learn more about OCCHE visit https://www.hhs.gov/ash/ocche/index.html.
Mass General Brigham is an integrated academic health care system, uniting great minds to solve the hardest problems in medicine for our communities and the world. Mass General Brigham connects a full continuum of care across a system of academic medical centers, community and specialty hospitals, a health insurance plan, physician networks, community health centers, home care, and long-term care services. Mass General Brigham is a nonprofit organization committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. In addition, Mass General Brigham is one of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations with several Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals. For more information, please visit massgeneralbrigham.org.