Healthcare Leaders, Administration to Strengthen the Climate Resilience of Healthcare

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Initiative to develop tools and information to help healthcare facilities prepare for the impacts of climate change and increase their resilience.

As part of this initiative, the administration is releasing a best practices guide for healthcare providers, design professionals, policymakers and others to promote continuity of care before, during and after extreme weather events. This document identifies the status of healthcare infrastructure’s resilience to extreme weather risks, as well as best practices healthcare organizations can adopt to improve climate readiness.

The HHS climate resilience guide, “Primary Protection: Enhancing Healthcare Resilience for a Changing Climate,” is intended to address a wide range of healthcare facility vulnerabilities. It spans risks related to buildings, utilities and infrastructure, including IT infrastructure, supply chain issues, the needs of staff and the role of the healthcare facility in the broader community. It is intended to be helpful to a broad spectrum of facilities from complex university hospitals to outpatient service providers and nursing facilities.

The guide focuses on the following 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

In addition to the climate resilience guide, HHS is developing a suite of online resilience tools for healthcare facilities to add to the administration’s new web-based Climate Resilience Toolkit, which provides easy, intuitive access to dozens of federal tools that can directly help planners and decision-makers across America conduct work in the context of a changing climate. The new information, which will be available in the coming months, will include health- and healthcare-related fact sheets, checklists, resources and a database of case studies that provide examples of how facilities have addressed the range of climate change-related hazards relevant to different regions of the country.

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Posted January 12, 2015

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