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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Focusing On Sustainable and Responsible Development

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience Policy Statement

Secretary SebeliusJune 28, 2013

When President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on October 5, 2009, he committed the Federal Government to take a leadership role in promoting sustainability and responding to the threats of climate change. Since then, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has made real progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water and other key resources, and evaluating risks and vulnerabilities associated with climate change’s short and long-term effects. 

A number of scientific panels, including the U.S. Global Change Research Program and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have published data indicating that climate change is already negatively affecting human health in the United States and is likely to have harmful effects on human health in the future. Hazards linked to climate change include more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts, wildfires, heavy rainfall, and flooding; changes in the rates and ranges of infectious and allergic diseases; and threats to communities from rising sea levels and coastal erosion.  Although climate change may reduce certain health risks, it will likely worsen many existing health threats while also introducing new problems. Individuals and communities with underlying vulnerabilities, such as being impoverished, experiencing disproportionate environmental exposures, having pre-existing health, including behavioral health, conditions, being very young or old, or living in geographically vulnerable areas, will be at the greatest risk of harm. HHS’s responsibility is to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. As such, our Department has two critical roles to play, reducing our own environmental impact while also facilitating understanding of and adaptation to climate change. Through these actions, we will set the example of responsible stewardship and improve individual and community resilience, supporting a healthier future for the American people.

With our Department’s completion of the 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, HHS expresses its continued commitment to comply with environmental, energy, and public health statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders. We are committed to leading the way on implementation of sustainable practices, provision of climate-resilient health and human services, and support of scientific research focused on environmental and public health, including research on the effects of climate change on human health and well-being.

Our Department understands that the health and well-being of people in the United States depend in part on healthy and sustainable environments, both natural and man-made. We are committed to taking a leadership role in researching and communicating the relationship between the health of our citizens and the health of our environment.  Through our past accomplishments and future commitments, the Department of Health and Human Services will lead the way toward a healthy future for all Americans.

Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary of Health and Human Services

Content last reviewed on April 14, 2011