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Providence is enacting the WE REACH Resiliency Plan, with focus areas of resiliency, equity, adaptation, climate and health.
The WE REACH plan parallels our WE ACT framework, which frames our strategy to mitigate, or reduce, our greenhouse gas emissions on our way to our goal of being carbon negative by 2030 and which focuses on waste, energy and water, agriculture and food, chemicals, and transportation.
Climate resiliency, through the WE REACH approach, impacts how Providence delivers care to patients, what we bring to our communities and how we operationalize our work.
Providence has long been committed to caring for and partnering with the communities we serve. In recent years, we have turned that attention toward environmental justice and climate resiliency as an additional way to lend service to our communities. These commitments ask caregivers to consider the environmental determinants of health (as well as the social determinants of health) and the impacts on communities from climate change. These climate impacts include fires, smoke, heat, flooding and other events, which cause both direct and indirect tolls on physical and mental health in our communities.
Because of this commitment, Providence is developing the WE REACH Resiliency Plan. The elements of the plan include:
This mnemonic reminds us that we are reaching out to the communities we serve and reaching toward justice and caring in our programs and organization.
The WE REACH Resiliency Plan, which will be implemented in coming years, is running in parallel with the WE ACT framework, which focuses on five key areas of environmental stewardship: Waste, energy and water, agriculture and food, chemicals, and transportation. Providence has developed an extensive scorecard that we use to identify, measure and address emissions throughout our system.
Providence was one of the first health systems to sign the US Department of Health and Human Services decarbonization pledge for US health care systems. Providence is working toward our goal of being carbon negative by 2030. Our health and our planet’s health are intertwined. That is why Providence, and our ministries are dedicated to finding innovative environmental stewardship solutions that support our planet and our patients.
“The process ahead is complex,” says Cassie Tinari, Executive Director of Social Responsibility at Providence. “While it may be challenging, we remain focused on the goal of building climate-related resiliency in operations and in the communities we serve.”
Bringing resiliency in how we work
Climate change has a direct impact on Providence operations. During high heat and smoke events, our buildings have experienced challenges including damage to infrastructure and an inability to maintain optimal temperatures and humidity. For example, at the height of the 2021 heat dome, Portland reached a record-high temperature of 116 degrees. Providence saw the effects of this heat in older buildings, including warped window frames and door jambs.
“This event reinforced the need to create climate resilient infrastructure so we can continue to give continuous care despite an increase in extreme climate events,” says Andrew Mason, Director of Facilities for Providence in Oregon.
To combat these impacts, Providence is committed to building resilient infrastructure, including through improvements in:
- HVAC systems
- Temperature/humidity controls
- Water security
- Wildfire readiness
How we care for our patients
Climate change can have a direct impact on health for many patients. When it comes to direct clinical care delivery, Providence is committed to improving areas like:
- Clinical knowledge
- Patient education and empowerment
- Staff availability
- Surge capacity
For example, Providence is working to improve patient education around high heat and smoke events, including how heat and smoke impact specific diseases and affect medication use.
What we bring to our communities
Providence has always prided itself on our partnership and engagement with the communities we serve, including through:
- Community benefit
- Community health
- Environmental justice
- Existing partnerships
- Population health
- Mental health and well being
The impacts of climate change bring different effects to different regions, including poor air quality in the Northwest and Alaska, extreme heat in the Southwest and extreme weather events in Texas.
Cassie Tinari, Executive Director of Social Responsibility at Providence
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