How should hospitals respond to climate change?

Hospitals should tackle climate change by taking steps such as better preparing for natural disasters and curbing their own greenhouse gas emissions, said Ashish Jha of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health at a recent Congressional hearing.

Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Global Health and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, testified on May 15, 2019 at a House Ways & Means Committee hearing focused on the economic and health consequences of climate change.

Jha discussed a range of health effects caused by climate change. He told lawmakers that wildfires can lead to substantial increases in respiratory diseases and asthma; that high temperatures are linked with increases in heart disease and stroke; that poor air quality contributes to cardiovascular disease and early death; and that vector-borne diseases like Zika or Lyme disease can spread to new areas as the climate conditions change.

Jha also discussed the financial costs of climate change—millions of dollars due to additional hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and outpatient visits.

Hospitals, for their part, need to be prepared to withstand extreme weather events by ensuring, for example, that the power stays on during emergencies, Jha said.

Jha addressed lawmakers’ concerns that rural hospitals may lack resources to deal with climate change issues. “Ultimately these hospitals are safety net institutions for their communities. We need them to survive storms, to do a better job of predicting heat waves, and do a better job of staffing,” he said in a May 15, 2019 MedPage Today article.

Read the MedPage Today article: Hospitals Need to Step Up on Climate Change, Lawmakers Told

Read a Modern Healthcare article: Who should pay for hospitals’ disaster preparedness?