ChristianaCare will pursue bold targets for emissions reduction and climate resistance by pledging commitment to the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge, recently shared by a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services delegation to the United Nations Climate Conference (COP27).
Under this pledge, part of a nationwide effort led by the White House and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), ChristianaCare will take actions to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. ChristianaCare is one of 102 organizations that have signed the pledge.
A commitment to health equity
This pledge builds on existing, long-standing work that ChristianaCare has taken to improve environmental health, which is available in this video to celebrate Earth Day 2022.
ChristianaCare views environmental health and health equity as deeply intertwined. In the United States, underserved and impoverished communities, frequently Black, Latino or Native American, often live in the most environmentally precarious areas. They are much more likely to be subject to natural disasters like flooding, as well as poor water quality, poor air quality and pollution.
“At ChristianaCare, our commitment to serving our neighbors with excellence and love motivates us every day to do even more to improve the health of our community,” said Bettina Tweardy Riveros, J.D., chief health equity officer and senior vice president of Government Affairs and Community Engagement at ChristianaCare.
“We have increasingly recognized the powerful link between health and the environment and, as the largest private employer in Delaware, we have an obligation to be environmentally responsible, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and be a leader in sustainability efforts.”
The health care industry overall is responsible for as much as 4.6% of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to studies by The Commonwealth Fund. Of that, hospital care contributes approximately 36%.
“Climate change is a health issue,” Riveros said. “Global warming not only impacts the health of people at the macro level, through droughts, flooding and increasingly powerful storms – it also impacts people at the individual level, as it increases or exacerbates conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses.”
‘Critical for our future’
ChristianaCare has developed an organizational framework that embeds environmental and equity goals in every part of its work, including buying practices, facilities management, advocacy and investment, and even the ways it delivers care and connects with the surrounding community. This work goes hand-in-hand with ChristianaCare’s commitment to anti-racism and health equity and it allows for continued collaboration with other environmental stakeholders, including state and federal officials, community organizations and the business community.
“From a public health standpoint, the case for creating a healthy environment is clear,” said Rob McMurray, chief financial officer at ChristianaCare.
“It also makes sense from a business standpoint. Strong environmental, social and governance standards push organizations to be more innovative, resilient and prosperous in the long term. They also foster a more engaged workforce.”
Being a good steward
Many ChristianaCare caregivers have expressed their support of environmental stewardship, and the pledge is the latest action to harness their enthusiasm and empower them to make an impact.
“We know this work is critical for our future, and it also allows us to tap into our greatest resource – our caregivers – to find even more ways to be good stewards of our environment,” McMurray said.
In addition to hospitals, stakeholders making the Health Sector Climate Pledge include health centers, suppliers, insurance companies, group purchasing organizations, pharmaceutical companies and others, according to the HHS announcement.
Federal agencies like the Indian Health Service, Veterans Health Administration and Military Health System are working together to meet goals similar to those the private sector organizations have embraced. Combined, this means that more than 1,080 federal and private sector hospitals have made such commitments, together representing over 15% of U.S. hospitals.