SSM Health joins Biden Administration pledge to decarbonize health care sector, make facilities resilient to climate change
SSM Health was celebrated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) on November 10, 2022, for pledging ongoing action to decarbonize the health care sector and make health care facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change. SSM Health has formally committed to pursuing the Biden administration’s climate goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. (story continues below)
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 the victims of longstanding discrimination — 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 percent 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.
So far, 102 prominent health companies in the U.S. 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 like 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 percent of U.S. hospitals.
“HHS returns this year to COP27 to report great progress,” said ADM 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 support to help communities and care providers accelerate their work to reduce harmful emissions and increase climate resilience in the health sector.”
SSM Health’s focus on environmental sustainability is an integral part of its Mission and Vision. Following in the footsteps of its founding congregation, the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, the health system has a long-standing commitment to caring for creation and nurturing healthy communities.
“As health care leaders, we know the health of individuals depends on the health of our communities, the health of the nation and the health of the planet – so we are pleased to join this important initiative,” said Laura S. Kaiser, FACHE, President and CEO of SSM Health. “Every person deserves the opportunity to live in a healthy environment with access to clean water, nutritious foods and green spaces to play and work. It is time for all of us to collaborate and invite others to join in this effort to ensure a healthy world for future generations.”
SSM Health’s environmental sustainability efforts are comprehensive with a multi-faceted focus on everything from reducing energy consumption and medical waste to impact investing, incorporating green building practices, and planting trees to reverse urban deforestation.