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December 16, 2014

ThedaCare Embraces National Climate Change Resiliency Initiative

Representatives from ThedaCare attended a White House event Monday focused on preparing the nation’s healthcare system to better weather the impacts of climate change.

Healthcare Provider One of 11 in Nation to Attend White House Event

Representatives from ThedaCare attended a White House event Monday focused on preparing the nation’s healthcare system to better weather the impacts of climate change.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Initiative to develop tools and information to help health care facilities prepare for the impacts of climate change and increase their ability to provide continuity of care before, during and after extreme weather events. The new guide, which was endorsed by ThedaCare and 10 other healthcare providers, looks at the best practices organizations can take to improve their climate readiness.

Paul Linzmeyer, ThedaCare’s sustainability leader, said climate change has a huge impact on health and well-being through extreme weather events such as super storms, heat waves, and severe droughts. 

“By embracing these new guidelines, ThedaCare will be better prepared to care for patients and the community during any severe weather events as well as being prepared for the additional strain climate change is expected to put on our health care system through associated illnesses and the exacerbation of chronic conditions like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases,” he said. “For example, the warmer temperatures spurred by carbon pollution can worsen asthma, which already impacts more than 9 percent of children in the U.S. and is the third leading cause of hospitalizations for children.”

The new HHS climate resilience guide focuses on following these resilience principles and practices:

  • Developing and maintaining data on climate hazards and infrastructure vulnerabilities
  • Understanding the regulatory, design, and land use context of a facility’s location
  • Constructing or retrofitting infrastructure in manner that is both sustainable and better at withstanding future events
  • Prioritizing resilience measures for high priority, vulnerable functions and areas
  • Strengthening ecosystems and natural buffers to mitigate floods, storm surges, and other hazards to facilities

Linzmeyer said the guide addresses a wide range of health care facility vulnerabilities from risks related to buildings and infrastructure to staff needs and supply chain issues. The health care sector comprises 20 percent of the U.S. economy so climate change can be seen as both a public health and economic threat.

Earlier this year, ThedaCare held its first-ever Climate Change and Health Summit and plans to hold another one in February. Linzmeyer said ThedaCare’s sustainability initiatives fit well with its overall mission of improving health in the communities it serves by reducing its energy, waste, and water use.

“ThedaCare is searching for sustainable, self-sufficient energy solutions that do not rely on the existing power grid, and plan to pilot the solutions next year,” he said. “Since ThedaCare serves as an anchor in its communities, we see an opportunity to lead discussions on climate change by showcasing the latest climate adaptation and resilience practices to local businesses, non-profit organizations, and community leaders.”

The 10 other healthcare systems involved this week include Ascension, Cleveland Clinic, Dignity Health, Gundersen, Inova Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Partners HealthCare, University Hospitals (Cleveland), and Virginia Mason.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of seven hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Shawano Medical Center, Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, Berlin Memorial Hospital, and Wild Rose Community Memorial Hospital. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare At Home. ThedaCare is one of the largest employers in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,800 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.