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Healthcare should accelerate its involvement with climate change

Climate change impacts on healthcare have created a crisis through damage to healthcare provision, including facilities and supply chains.

Due to differing climate contexts, a systematic approach is needed for healthcare providers in different communities to understand and prioritize the varied climate change impacts on healthcare operations, finances and reputation.

Marsh McLennan Advantage director healthy sciences Kavitha Hariharan and others in a blog wrote about proactively measuring and reporting on climate performance can result in greater access to capital and contracts, better terms and greater trust from lenders, financial institutions and governments.

Climate impacts are intensifying to become one of the most significant health crises this century. Quite apart from increasing and changing healthcare needs, such as increased injuries and infectious disease spread, climate change places undue strain on healthcare providers’ operations through damaged facilities and disrupted supply chains.

Climate change, directly and indirectly, aggravates pressing environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in healthcare, including workforce burnout, health disparities and the availability of resources like water.

Healthcare providers have different exposures based on location, time horizon, types of assets and underlying vulnerabilities in their communities, they need a systematic approach to understand and prioritize climate impacts on their operations, finances and reputation.

A first step is to understand which particular threats are faced where, as explored in a recent Marsh McLennan report, Feeling the heat: how healthcare providers can meet the climate challenge. They can also uncover unrealized opportunities such as pools of green capital, energy efficiencies and enhancing a sense of pride and purpose to retain talent.

Healthcare providers urgently need to understand the risks of an evolving climate context and unlock its opportunities, so they can build resilience to climate impacts as well as reduce their contribution to climate change. Some interventions will further adaptation and mitigation goals simultaneously, while others may present trade-offs for providers to articulate and negotiate.

Three strategies can help: Aligning business strategy with the climate agenda, shaping corporate governance to integrate climate risks and opportunities and improving communication and collaboration with the broader health ecosystem and surrounding communities to deliver more impact.

Unprepared healthcare providers will lurch from one emergency to the next. To future-proof assets and operations, healthcare must act now, before this once-backburner issue becomes the next burning platform.



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