As part of our whole-health approach, which encompasses health factors outside of the doctor’s office, Elevance Health works to alleviate the effects of climate change on health.
The healthcare sector must lead efforts to address climate change, which over 200 medical journals have declared the “greatest threat” to global public health. Climate change impacts critical physical, behavioral, and social drivers, such as mental health conditions and food security. Disruptions to ecological systems and changes in weather can worsen chronic health conditions and lead to increased prevalence of conditions like asthma, cardiovascular failure, and infectious disease.
“The science is unequivocal that rising temperatures impact health,” said Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, chief health officer at Elevance Health. “As a health partner, we have a responsibility to use every lever at our disposal to preserve and improve the health of our members and communities. This includes doing all we can to mitigate the health effects of climate change.”
Climate change is also a health equity issue as it has a more significant impact on certain groups of people, exacerbating pre-existing inequalities. Healthcare concerns can quickly become emergencies during wildfires, flooding, and heat waves, especially for people of color, those with lower socioeconomic status, and people with disabilities. People with lower incomes live in areas with the highest projected increases in premature death due to climate-driven extreme temperatures, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report. Individuals with disabilities may have ongoing medical care needs disrupted by climate events.
When it comes to addressing climate change impacts on health, the healthcare industry can start in its own back yard. Healthcare is one of the most carbon-intensive service sectors in the industrialized world. The U.S. healthcare industry is estimated to contribute 8.5% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Elevance Health’s Net Zero Strategy