Northern Arizona Healthcare (NAH) has announced its pledge to continuously improve its sustainability initiatives as part of an effort led by the Biden Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The sustainability initiative brings together the health care industry in a commitment to reduce carbon emissions and make health care facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change.
NAH has committed to meet the Biden administration’s climate goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and is already taking steps to reduce its climate impact. The pledge demonstrates a sector-wide display of cooperation between NAH, its private sector peers, and federal health systems.
“Climate change is a serious issue, and health care organizations can’t ignore it. We must be a part of the solution,” said NAH President and CEO Flo Spyrow. “NAH is committed to this effort and we know that reducing carbon emission will be beneficial not only for NAH’s patients and the communities we serve but also for future generations.”
As part of its commitment, NAH will put improved sustainability at the core of its work. For example, NAH will consider sustainable options to retrofit existing facilities to improve energy efficiency and optimization. Energy efficiency and optimization will be foundational to future construction as well. At the NAH’s proposed Health and Wellness Village in Flagstaff, NAH anticipates it will be able to implement new sustainability options that would reduce energy consumption significantly versus NAH’s current Flagstaff campus – even though the proposed campus will be larger and offer more services.
NAH colleagues are already taking steps to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint. NAH’s Blue Wrap Project is an initiative that re-purposes this surgical material into re-useable items that benefit patients and non-profit organizations. NAH has removed about 60,000 pounds of blue wrap from landfills, and saved NAH approximately $17,000 in medical waste disposal fees.
In September 2021, 200 medical journals named climate change the number one threat to global public health. Millions of people living in the United States already experience associated harm —with disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged and underserved communities—through more frequent and intense periods of extreme heat, wildfires, flooding, vector-borne diseases and other factors that worsen chronic health conditions.
The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), part of HHS under the Assistant Secretary for Health, developed the health sector climate pledge in conjunction with the White House to help focus industry response to climate change. In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, signatories also commit to producing detailed plans to build climate resilience for their facilities and the communities they serve.
Today’s announcement by the Biden Administration and HHS included from companies and organizations representing hundreds of hospitals and numerous health centers, as well as pharmaceutical companies, medical device-makers, suppliers and group purchasing organizations.
“Public health decisions have to be based on the realities of climate change, and we all need to do more to make that happen at the national level,” said ADM Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. “We’re seeing right now what extreme temperatures and more severe storms can do to human health, environmental quality, and our physical infrastructure. It’s great to see so many different companies and organizations come together to decarbonize and become partners in protecting human health from climate change. Today’s announcement is just the beginning of a longer ongoing effort with partners from across the medical sector, which is exactly the kind of big response we need as a country.”