The Biden-Harris Administration celebrated Earth Day by focusing on its theme, “invest in our planet”, and is committed to addressing climate change, advancing health equity and pursuing environmental justice – which all depends on a healthy, clean planet. The following is a snapshot of various Earth Day activities the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, its new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity and other divisions are coordinating as part of a commitment to building a healthier, more climate-resilient future.
“There is an urgent need to act now, and HHS is stepping up to deliver. From releasing $385M in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to introducing a pledge initiative that will connect public and private healthcare stakeholders to reduce emissions, we will use every tool in our toolbox to ensure a healthier future for all,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
“History will judge us for the actions or inactions that we take today. I am proud to work for an administration that is choosing to take action, and choosing to prioritize climate and health on Earth Day, and every day,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine.
The following is a short overview of some of the Department’s efforts surrounding Earth Day 2022.
Assistance and Tools to Address Climate Impacts
- Announced the release of $385M in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds, which helps keep families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs. [ACF]
- Launched the LIHEAP Heat Stress Geographic Information System (GIS) Dashboard that provides information on the progression of extreme heat over time, the health impacts of extreme heat, and visualizations on how LIHEAP is able to alleviate extreme heat stress for vulnerable populations, among other information/tools. The dashboard provides high-quality, accessible, and timely information for our grant recipients and partners to help them determine how best to utilize LIHEAP and other resources to help promote health and wellbeing for vulnerable populations. [ACF]
- Published an Office of Community Services Earth Day webpage that has information on the Dashboard, Earth Day one pagers for LIHEAP, the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), and the Rural Community Development program, and videos on LIHEAP and LIHWAP, and a social media toolkit that can be used to promote the programs and underscore their impact. [ACF]
- Issued a new AHRQ Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data brief, “Emergency Department Visits for Diagnoses Directly Indicating Heat Exposure: Variation Across Counties in the United States, 2016 – 2020” that quantifies wide state variations in heat-related emergency department visits due to extreme heat exposure. The brief also showed rural counties were more likely than urban counties to have higher rates of ED visits related to heat exposure. [AHRQ]
- Issued a new AHRQ Views blog post “Earth Day at AHRQ: Celebrating Hope through Action” by Agency Deputy Director David Meyers, M.D., and Social Science Analyst Brent Sandmeyer, M.P.H. [AHRQ]
- Hosted the HHS Earth Day 2022 Speaker Series with climate change experts from across the federal government to discuss the basics of climate change, climate science, how climate change impacts health, and how the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) is coordinating climate and health equity efforts across the Department. [OCCHE and ASA]
Healthcare Sector Resilience and Decarbonization
- Issued a new Pledge Initiative, in partnership with the White House, as a call to action for health care stakeholders to address climate change, including pledges by private sector health systems and other organizations to reduce greenhouse gases. [OCCHE]
- Published a New England Journal of Medicine Perspective “After COP26 — Putting Health and Equity at the Center of the Climate Movement.” [OCCHE]
- Released a request for information in the CMS FY 2023 Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and Long Term Care Hospitals (LTCH PPS) Proposed Rule seeking input on how health care providers can more effectively respond to climate risks and reduce their emissions and how HHS can support their efforts. [CMS]
Mental Health and Climate Change
- Posted information on disaster preparedness in an era of climate change on SAMHSA’s Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series Resource Center (DBHIS) on SAMHSA.gov. [SAMHSA]
- Released an issue of the quarterly Dialogue newsletter entitled Disaster Behavioral Health in an Era of Climate Change – PDF on SAMHSA.gov. [SAMHSA]
- Released a draft outline of 2022 HHS Environmental Justice Strategy and Implementation Plan for public comment on the Federal Register, which closes May 19, 2022. [OCCHE]
Environmental Health Initiatives and Research
- Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), a leading monthly journal of environmental health research and news published with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of NIH, is celebrating its 50th anniversary on Earth Day, April 22, 2022. The journal has contributed significantly to public health over the past five decades. We are excited to honor key moments that established EHP’s leadership in environmental health research and scholarly publishing. (NIEHS)
- Aubrey K. Miller, senior medical advisor to the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), will present a keynote at 12:00 pm ET: “Applied Science to Address the Health Impacts of Disasters and Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities” as part of the 2022 John P. Wyatt, M.D. Environment and Health Symposium at the University of Kentucky on Earth Day, April 22, 2022. (NIEHS)
- Promoted the HHS Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) Innovator Award Competition: Innovative Methods to Address the Impact of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals on Black or African American Women. The competition aims to identify and fund programs that demonstrate effectiveness, sustainability, and the ability to replicate and/or expand interventions that address gaps in knowledge and provide solutions to reduce EDC exposure risk for Black or African American women. [OWH]
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