Focus: Climate Change and Opportunities for Action
Virginia Mason continues to lead efforts to transform our community into a healthier place to live by raising awareness about the connection between the environment and health.
On Dec. 7, Virginia Mason hosted a state-wide symposium, “Health in a Changing Climate: Understanding Impacts and Opportunities for Action,” to help clinicians identify the exposure pathways and health impacts from climate change, mobilize health leaders as climate messengers, and announce the formation of a new alliance, called the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance (WA Alliance). Members are Virginia Mason, CHI Franciscan, MultiCare, Providence St. Joseph Health, Seattle Children’s, Swedish Health Services and UW Medicine.
Speakers at the symposium included Gov. Jay Inslee, Health Care Without Harm’s president and co-founder Gary Cohen, Seattle-King County health officer for public health Jeff Duchin, University of Washington’s Center for Health and the Global Environment director Jeremy Hess, Virginia Mason Health System’s chairman and CEO Gary S. Kaplan, MD, and the Public Health Institute’s senior adviser on climate, health and equity Linda Rudolph.
The health care systems in the new WA Alliance represent 40 hospitals and more than 1,000 health care facilities serving nearly nine million patients.
“Climate change is already impacting the health of Washingtonians. We must act now to prevent the climate crisis from devastating our health and the health of future generations,” says Governor Jay Inslee. “I applaud the members of the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance for uniting to protect their patients and the planet, and to make their hospitals and health care systems more sustainable and resilient."
WA Alliance members each signed a pledge to advocate for smarter climate policies and regulations related to energy, transportation, food, waste, infrastructure and overall community resilience. The health care systems in the new WA Alliance represent 40 hospitals and more than 1,000 health care facilities serving nearly nine million patients.
“Virginia Mason Medical Center is deeply committed to both sustainability and improving the health and wellbeing of the patients we serve. We are joining the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance to protect our patients from climate change and help our community engage in sustainability efforts,” says Gary Kaplan, MD, chairman and CEO, Virginia Mason Health System.
Solutions to Global Warming
Virginia Mason team members challenged each other to find personal solutions to transportation, land use, electricity generation and other important areas of concern using the Drawdown EcoChallenge platform. More than 50 teams, comprised of 537 registrants took part in the challenge. Virginia Mason was awarded the Top Organization award for earning more points than any other organization in the United States.
“Participation exceeded our expectations,” says Sustainability Director John Leigh. “A lot of learning took place regarding the many ways we can each decrease our carbon footprint.”
Looking Ahead — Decreasing Food-related Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Virginia Mason is the first organization in the Pacific Northwest to sign the Cool Food Pledge, a national initiative devoted to reducing food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030. Members pledge to reduce food-related emissions in line with climate science, develop plans to sell delicious dishes with smaller climate footprints, and promote their achievements as leaders in a growing movement.