Hospitals need to remain operational during and after extreme weather events so people can get the medical care they need and communities can recover from disruption. As climate change leads to increases in the intensity, duration, and geographic reach of extreme weather such as heat waves, hurricanes, flooding, and fires, hospitals must make their facilities more resilient and work with their communities on emergency preparedness planning.
Partners HealthCare’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, located on a former brownfield site on the Boston harbor, was built with climate-resilient design features that make it one of the most sustainable and resilient hospitals in the country and a model for how to use nature as part of a healing facility.
In order to be a “safe haven in the storm,” hospitals need to understand how climate change will impact their buildings, community infrastructure, and cause changes in disease prevalence. Many hospitals are taking steps to ensure they are prepared for the impacts of climate change by undertaking assessments and developing action plans to address climate change-related building and community infrastructure vulnerabilities and engaging in regional resilience planning.
As anchor institutions, health systems also have a responsibility and an economic self-interest in making sure their communities are healthy, safe, and climate resilient. Health care institutions can leverage their political and economic influence to address social and environmental determinants of health in communities to improve their ability to adapt and recover from disruption. It is critical for the long-term sustainability of health care and public health for health care institutions to assess and address climate risks in the communities they serve.
Practice Greenhealth helps members access resources and tools to prepare for the impacts of the changing climate and build community resilience.