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Is Your Healthcare Organization Prepared to Adapt to Climate Change?

According to a recent article by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about health risks associated with warming temperatures, “The severity of these health risks will depend on the ability of public health and safety systems to address or prepare for these changing threats, as well as factors such as an individual’s behavior, age, gender, and economic status” (EPA, 2017). A lot will depend on each community’s ability to adapt to change, healthcare systems included.

Findings from a nationally representative survey conducted by Yale University and George Mason University report that most Americans are concerned about the uptick of temperatures, “A majority of Americans are worried about harm from extreme events in their local area including extreme heat (61%), flooding (61%), droughts (58%), and/or water shortages (51%)” (Leiserowitz et. al., 2018). Most Americans are already thinking about temperatures on the rise, and healthcare organizations need to join them by adapting how they train and prepare for the risks that warmer temperatures could bring.”

 

As these new threats emerge or worsen, healthcare organizations may want to ask themselves:

  • Do your caregivers recognize symptoms of diseases that may be hard to diagnose such as Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and mosquito-borne dengue fever?
  • Does your area need to plan for increased volumes of cardiovascular, respiratory, kidney, and behavioral health patients?
  • Are you prepared for flood waters that may last for weeks?
  • Do you have staffing plans to get personnel in and out of the hospital (or to accommodate them in the hospital) if a threatening situation occurs?
  • Are you prepared to bring in support apart from your regular staff if back-up is needed?
  • Are electrical and mechanical systems in your healthcare organizations located high enough (or are they robust enough) to be operational if there are floods or prolonged power outages?
  • Are you prepared for weather events that may cause community resources ranging from primary care offices to dialysis clinics to close several days before the disaster actually strikes?
  • Are you aware of how warmer temperatures are likely to impact your local community so that you can anticipate community needs?

 

References

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2017). Climate impacts on human health. Retrieved July 1, 2019: https://19january2017snap­shot.epa.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-human-health_.html

 

Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Ballew, M., Goldberg, M., & Gustafson, A. (2018). Climate change in the American mind: Decem­ber 2018. Yale University and George Mason University, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Climate-Change-American-Mind-December-2018.pdf

 

This blog post excerpts the HealthStream article, Is your Healthcare Organization preparing for Potential Health Risks Associated with Warmer Temperatures?. It also includes:

  • Temperatures Are Trending Upward in The U.S.
  • Hotter Temperatures Can Increase Health Risks
  • Increases in Severe Weather Events
  • New Threats Emerge with a Warmer Climate

Access the full article here.