Oakland, Calif. — Kaiser Permanente joined the Biden administration for a White House event on June 30, 2022, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where Bechara Choucair, MD, senior vice president and chief health officer for Kaiser Permanente, along with industry colleagues, pledged meaningful action to decarbonize the health care sector and make health care facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Kaiser Permanente has committed to meet the Biden administration’s climate goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The White House event offered a sector-wide display of cooperation between Kaiser Permanente, its private sector peers, and federal health systems. The organization is already taking steps to reduce its climate impacts.
In 2020, Kaiser Permanente became the first U.S. health care organization to achieve carbon neutral status. Working toward achieving net-zero emissions by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions inclusive of Scopes 1, 2, and 3 aligns with Kaiser Permanente’s dedication to creating healthier, more resilient, and more equitable communities.
“We are looking to address environmental inequities with the same rigor and scale as we approach other key drivers of health such as economic, housing, and food security in our communities. We know neighborhoods must be resilient in many ways, and this is one of them,” Dr. Choucair said.
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 times of extreme heat, wildfires, flooding, vector-borne diseases, and other factors that worsen chronic health conditions.
The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, 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.
The June 30 White House event included leaders 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. The health care sector accounts for approximately 8.5% of U.S. domestic climate-warming emissions.
“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 Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine. “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. This 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.”
The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) plays a vital role in protecting the nation’s health from climate change-related risks, including extreme heat, natural disasters, vector-borne diseases and more. OCCHE is looking forward to providing technical supports to companies that wish to reduce their environmental impact and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change, setting national health goals and objectives and supporting programs, services, and education activities that improve the health of all Americans. OCCHE is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Learn more about OCCHE.
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.6 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.