Building health care and community resilience in Southeast Florida

  • US & Canada

Southeast Florida hospitals are on the front line of climate change, bearing the costs of increased diseases and more extreme weather events. In 2020, the dual crises of more frequent and intense heat waves, hurricanes, and flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the urgent need for more resilience in health care and communities. 

Health Care Without Harm, Cleveland Clinic, and Perkins&Will recently held a two-day, invite-only virtual summit on climate resilience to catalyze collaborative climate action planning to make Southeast Florida more resilient in the face of climate change and future pandemics. Attendees from health care, government, academia, and community organizations all came together to better understand how climate change and extreme weather events impact the region along with opportunities to collaborate and build more resilience in their communities.

Attendees heard from Florida’s U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis that released a report on an action plan to solve the climate crisis which included comprehensive recommendations to achieve climate, health, and equity. John Englander spoke about his new book “Moving to Higher Ground,” reinforcing the grave dangers being faced by coastal communities. 

The event featured panels including scientists, architects, physicians, sustainability professionals, and community organizers who shared their expertise and model projects, as well as current and future opportunities for collaboration. 

On the second day, participants discussed key questions to move the work forward:

  • What are the internal and external opportunities for hospitals to partner with municipal and regional governments and their communities on climate resilience? 
  • What are 1-2 key challenges you face in working to build a climate-resilient health care system and community? What are the key levers - policies, programs, partnerships - needed to address them? What can your organization do to help? 
  • If health care were to take a bolder leadership role in addressing the convergence of COVID-19, climate, and systemic racism in the years to come, what might that look like, and what would we need to do to get there?

Ideas were shared, new connections were made, and new partnerships are on the horizon. One key learning came from Carol "CJ" Jeffers, Sarasota County Health and Human Services’ program coordinator.

Jeffers talked about 5 steps to developing strong partnerships in the community:

  1. Don’t’ assume – be open to learning.
  2. Connect – genuine connection meets a person or group where they are at. 
  3. Be real – ask the hard questions and go beyond the ordinary. Cultural awareness and sensitivity are critical.
  4. Develop reciprocal partnerships.
  5. Be visionary.

A resource list was also created, although many are specific to Southeast Florida we hope you will find them helpful as you think about building health and resilience in your community: