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Health system leaders form alliance to address climate concerns in Washington
Washington Health Care Climate Alliance will advocate for climate-smart policies
[Seattle, Dec. 6, 2019] Residents of Washington state are already experiencing the health effects of climate change – from increased heat waves, more frequent wildfire smoke and poor air quality, and increased exposure to infectious disease. To protect Washington communities from the worst health impacts of climate change and advocate for policy solutions, eight of the state’s leading health systems have formed the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance. These health systems are:
- CHI Franciscan
- Kaiser Permanente
- Providence St. Joseph Health
- Seattle Children’s
- Swedish Health Services
- UW Medicine
- Virginia Mason Medical Center
Representing 40 Washington hospitals, over 1,000 health care facilities, and serving almost 9 million patients in the state, the Washington Alliance aims to bring health care’s expertise, experience, and trusted voice to the legislative and regulatory process for climate-smart policies related to energy, transportation, food, waste, infrastructure, and community resilience. Members of the alliance are leaders in health care sustainability and have set, or are developing, greenhouse gas reduction goals for their own operations.
“Climate change is already impacting the health of Washingtonians. We must act now to prevent the climate crisis from devastating our health and the health of future generations,” says Governor Jay Inslee. “I applaud the members of the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance for uniting to protect their patients and the planet, and to make their hospitals and health care systems more sustainable and resilient."
A state-wide symposium sets the stage
The Washington Alliance, and its founding members, will be announced at a climate and health educational symposium for health professionals in Seattle on December 7. The symposium, “Health in a Changing Climate: Understanding Impacts and Opportunities for Action,” will be hosted by Virginia Mason Medical Center and is co-organized by Health Care Without Harm, Kaiser Permanente, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Washington State Medical Association.
The anticipated audience of 170 physicians, nurses, and public health professionals will learn about the impact of climate change on health, focusing specifically on the experience of patients and communities in Washington. The event will also highlight opportunities for action in health care sustainability, advocacy and communications, and patient and clinician education.
Speakers at the symposium include Governor Jay Inslee, Health Care Without Harm’s president and co-founder Gary Cohen, Seattle-King County health officer for public health Jeff Duchin, University of Washington’s Center for Health and the Global Environment director Jeremy Hess, Virginia Mason Health System’s chairman and CEO Gary Kaplan, and the Public Health Institute’s senior adviser on climate, health and equity Linda Rudolph.
Joining other health system leaders across the country
The Washington Alliance is launching in collaboration with Health Care Without Harm, an organization that works with the health care sector in reducing its climate footprint, building climate-smart and resilient hospitals and communities, and mobilizing health care’s ethical, economic, and political influence to advance the transition to a low-carbon future. Health Care Without Harm also supports similar alliances in California and Massachusetts.
“Health care needs to expand its healing mission to healing communities and the planet which sustains us all,” says Health Care Without Harm’s president and co-founder Gary Cohen. “Hospitals are on the front lines of the climate crisis. Health care must be part of the solution, mitigating their footprint, investing in climate-ready facilities, and becoming advocates for clean energy policies. The health systems in this new alliance are forging a path for climate-smart health care and the promotion of healthy, resilient communities.”
Statements from founding health systems
“Creating healthy communities is our mission at CHI Franciscan. Part of creating healthy communities includes our commitment to sustainability, including energy conservation and efficiencies, reducing waste, conserving (and reusing) water, and looking for opportunities to buy green. We are proud to partner with other leading organizations to develop solutions that advance our sustainability goals and benefit the environmental health of our communities.” – Ketul J. Patel, CEO, CHI Franciscan
“The health of our environment has significant impacts on our community’s health, which is why Kaiser Permanente has set industry-leading climate and sustainability goals. We are dedicated to helping our patients, communities, and environment thrive, and the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance will be an important part of this work.” – David Grossman, MD, MPH, Senior Medical Director, Kaiser Permanente Washington
“We know that the health of the people in our communities and the health of our environment are inextricably linked and that’s why MultiCare is committed to reducing our impact on the earth. We are proud to partner with other health care organizations through the Alliance to advance sustainable policies that protect our state and our patients.” – William G. "Bill" Robertson, President & CEO, MultiCare Health System
“At Providence St. Joseph Health we believe that health for a better world includes working to reduce the health impacts from climate change by reducing our own greenhouse gases and building resilience in the communities we serve. We are proud to be a founding member of the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance.” – Ali Santore, Group Vice President, Government Affairs and Social Responsibility, Providence St. Joseph Health and Swedish Health Services.
“Seattle Children’s is committed to environmental stewardship for the health of our patients and families, our team, and our community. Washington State is already experiencing impacts of climate change, and Seattle Children’s is resolved to do our part. We continue to work on reducing our carbon footprint by decreasing energy use and by promoting alternative transportation for our team. We also plant 250 trees annually as a carbon offset. Joining the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance aligns with our mission and goals for healthy children.” – Jeff Sperring, MD, CEO, Seattle Children’s
“UW Medicine recognizes the importance of environmental stewardship as part of our mission to improve the health of the public. Through the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance, we will continue to advance our work to provide patients and visitors with a healthy environment as part of our commitment to excellent clinical care and outstanding service.” – Paul Ramsey, MD, CEO, UW Medicine
“Virginia Mason Medical Center is deeply committed to both sustainability and
improving the health and wellbeing of the patients we serve. We are joining the Washington
Health Care Climate Alliance to protect our patients from climate change and help our
community engage in sustainability efforts.” – Gary Kaplan, MD, Chairman and CEO, Virginia Mason Health
About Health Care Without Harm
Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform health care worldwide so the sector reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice. For more information, visit noharm-uscanada.org.