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OhioHealth Recognized at United Nations Climate Change Conference for Its Commitment to the White House-HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge

OhioHealth was recognized on December 3rd by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its public commitments to decarbonizing its operations and improving resilience in the face of climate change.

As part of the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), HHS shared that OhioHealth was one of more than 130 organizations that have joined the White House-HHS Health Sector climate pledge, committing to align with the Biden administration’s goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. OhioHealth is the only healthcare organization in Ohio to have signed the pledge.

OhioHealth is already working to tackle climate resiliency in many ways, such as expanding their emergency preparedness work to be adaptable in the face of climate change. The Midwest often sees flooding, high winds, poor air quality, extreme temperatures, and grid outages that potentially could affect OhioHealth care-sites across the system.

“We are preparing for those events while ensuring access to care and protecting health,” Principal Advisor of ESG/Sustainability Terri Scannell said, “To do that, we are expanding our operational capacity as well as integrating with our community partners, including public health departments, regional planning commissions, and other key businesses and local nonprofits.”

OhioHealth is also leading the way on reducing our emissions by focusing on these key areas, Sustainable Procurement, Healthy Buildings, Less Waste, Green Transportation and Smart Energy. OhioHealth’s investments in energy reduction, for example, have resulted in a reduction of 45,000 metric tons of carbon annually as well as a 2.4 million cost avoidance.

“We are leveraging our investment in more than 80 charging stations throughout central Ohio to shift our fleet and our partner fleets to EVs to reduce tailpipe emissions,” Scannell said, “By leveraging our infrastructure we are able to develop innovative partnerships with companies like MedSpeed, OhioHealth’s longstanding courier supplier, and Zipline, to integrate drones at a reduction in carbon emissions of 97%.”

The organization has diverted its kitchen food waste from the landfills; resulting in a reduction in carbon and methane emissions and has switched anesthetic gas used in surgeries to decrease emissions - resulting in a reduction of 706 mtCO2e.  

“As a large health system, we have a responsibility and opportunity to reduce our environmental footprint, but it’s not just about reducing waste, using different energy sources, or shifting our fleet to electric vehicles,” Scannell said, “Environmental health equals public health, which means improving patient and associate health, and improving the health of the most vulnerable in the communities we serve. OhioHealth is committed to accelerating sustainable practices that lessen our environmental impact without sacrificing quality or safety.”

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 itself, accounting for approximately 8.5% 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.

One hundred and thirty-three (133) prominent health companies in the U.S. have signed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge, including organizations representing 900 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 private sector organizations have embraced. Combined, this means that more than 1,110 federal and private sector hospitals have made such commitments, together representing more than 15% of U.S. hospitals.