Established in 2021, the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity addresses the impact of climate change on the health of the American people. Exercising powers of convening, coordination and collaboration, the Office serves as a department-wide hub for climate change and health policy, programming, and analysis, in pursuit of environmental justice and equitable health outcomes.
The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is pursuing three broad goals:
- Protecting the health of all people in the United States from the impacts of climate change, especially those most vulnerable.
- Enhancing the sustainability and climate resilience of the United States’ health systems.
- Addressing underlying health disparities by identifying and promoting ways in which actions to address climate change can also improve social determinants of health
Domestic Actions with International Impact
- COP26 Commitments: The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is heading the implementation of HHS commitments made through the COP26 Health Programme to resilience in our communities and decarbonization in our health systems.
- Health Sector Climate Pledge: The White House/HHS Health Sector Pledge is a voluntary commitment to reduce emissions and improve climate resilience. Signing organizations agree to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. In 2022, 116 organizations representing 872 hospitals signed the Pledge. Health sector organizations can sign the Pledge by filling out this form and sending it to OCCHE@HHS.GOV.
- HHS Shares Health Sector Emissions Reduction and Climate Resilience Announcements at COP27: An HHS delegation to COP27 shared updates on the Health Sector Climate Pledge and described plans to collaborate with the National Health Service (NHS) of England on developing proposals for aligned procurement requirements.
- COP28 Announcements: An HHS delegation to COP28 announced the release of a Climate Change and Health Equity Strategy Supplement, collaboration between federal health systems on clinical decarbonization, new signees of the White House-HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge, and a progress report on collaboration with the National Health Service (NHS) of England and other nations.
- Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan (CARP): The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is contributing to the HHS Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan by convening an HHS-wide Climate and Health Equity Working Group that coordinates efforts to enhance resilience and adaptation to climate change throughout the activities of HHS.
- Climate Change and Health Equity Strategy Supplement: The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity coordinated the development of an HHS-wide Strategy Supplement to the HHS Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan, detailing HHS agency accomplishments and planned actions to help public health, health care, and human services stakeholders better address climate-related risks and reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.
- Extreme Heat Interagency Working Group, Co-Chair: Formed by the White House Climate Policy Office in July 2021 and co-led by the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Working Group will continue to regularly convene agencies to communicate, coordinate, and improve federal efforts to build resilience to the threats posed by extreme heat.
- Justice Department Environmental Justice Investigation into Alabama Department of Public Health and Lowndes County Health Department: The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity consults with Office for Civil Rights on the public health aspects of the Justice Department’s environmental justice investigation into the wastewater disposal programs of the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Lowndes County Health Department.
- Federal Health Systems Learning Network: The Network is made up of the Veteran’s Health Administration, Defense Health Agency, Indian Health Service, and the Bureau of Prisons Health Services Division. These health systems share their learning on emissions reduction and resilience through regular exchange sessions with each other and public events like this November 2022 webinar. At COP28, some of the health systems announced planned collaboration, facilitated by the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, to explore emissions associated with clinical care.
- EMS HeatTracker: The EMS HeatTracker maps emergency medical services (EMS) responses to heat-related illness across the country to help local decision makers and communities prioritize life-saving resources and interventions. Updated weekly, the EMS HeatTracker shows rates of heat-related illness for the prior rolling 30- and 14-day periods at both the county and jurisdiction (all 50 U.S. States, Puerto Rico, and D.C.) levels.
- Climate and Health Outlook: The Outlook is a monthly product that uses climate-related hazard forecasts (wildfire, extreme heat, etc.) from across the government to inform health professionals and the public on how our health may be affected in the coming months by climate events and provide resources to take proactive action.
- Health Sector Resource Hub: The Hub is a place where organizations committed to becoming more resilient and sustainable can find helpful resources and supports.
- Quickfinder for Leveraging the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for the Health Sector: The Quickfinder explores how the landmark law’s billions of dollars in grants, loan programs, and tax credits can help transform the industry by significantly increasing access to funds that will create resilient and renewable infrastructure.
- Compendium of Federal Resources to Support Emissions Reduction and Climate Resilience for Healthcare Stakeholders: Visit the Compendium to explore federal resources to support health sector organizations in taking the critical steps necessary to become resilient to climate threats and reduce emissions. One important tool featured in the Compendium is Guidance for the Health Sector on using the Environmental Protection Agency’s free benchmarking tool ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager to track building-related energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- Accelerating Healthcare Sector Action Webinar Series: OCCHE also developed a webinar series in which experts from across the government answer questions regarding their programs. In 2023, the series focuses on the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides billions of dollars in grants, loan programs, and other investments.
- Million Hearts Climate Change and Cardiovascular Disease Collaborative (CCC): In partnership with OCCHE, the CDC National Center for Environmental Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency, Million Hearts CCC is a national forum for health professionals and organizations looking to deepen their knowledge about the cardiovascular health threats like air pollution and extreme heat events present, offer evidence-based interventions to address those threats (especially for high-risk populations), and provide opportunities to test and refine relevant solutions and tools.
- Protecting Vulnerable Patient Populations from Climate Hazards: A Referral Guide for Health Professionals: This guide is intended to inform education and referrals in clinical settings for patients who are vulnerable to climate change’s health impacts, and can be used by health and human services providers to address climate-related threats to their clients’ well-being. It includes resources such as social services and assistance programs to which patients can be referred, as well as references for anticipatory guidance and counseling to help patients prepare for potential hazards.
- Climate and Health Outlook Portal: The Portal features interactive maps with actionable data that communities can use to prepare for climate-related hazard events. These maps provide county-level extreme heat, wildfire, and drought forecast data for the current month, as well as county-level data on individual risk factors that may make people more vulnerable to negative health outcomes from these hazards.
Requests for Information
HHS is reviewing input from the public on climate change and health issues from the following requests for information:
- NIH Request for Information: Climate Change and Health (NOT-ES-21-009)
- AHRQ's Role in Climate Change and Environmental Justice Request for Information (86 FR 56953)
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2023 Final Rule Solicitation of Comments on Health Equity, Climate Health, and Qualified Health Plans (87 FR 27353)
- Medicare Program; Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems for Acute Care Hospitals and the Long-Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System and Policy Changes and Fiscal Year 2023 Rates; Quality Programs and Medicare Promoting Interoperability Program Requirements for Eligible Hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals; Costs Incurred for Qualified and Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plans; and Changes to Hospital and Critical Access Hospital Conditions of Participation (87 FR 49167)
- SAMHSA's Role in Possible Agency Actions Regarding Mental Health and Substance Use Wellbeing in the Context of Climate Change and Health Equity Request for Information (87 FR 53477). The SAMHSA Climate Change RFI Summary lives as a link on their Climate Change and Health Equity webpage and can be viewed via this link: https://www.samhsa.gov/climate-change-health-equity/rfi-summary-report.
The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is also helping to coordinate relevant programming across the other Divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services. These are some examples of relevant programs across the Department:
- NIH Climate and Health Initiative: The NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative is an urgent, cross-cutting NIH effort to reduce health threats from climate change across the lifespan and build health resilience in individuals, communities, and nations around the world, especially among those at highest risk.
- CDC’s Climate and Health Program: CDC’s Climate and Health Program supports state, tribal, local, and territorial public health agencies as they prepare for the health impacts of a changing climate.