On August 30, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, whose primary function is to address climate change as a public health and equity issue. The office has already committed to working with state and local governments, which is crucial as counties are experiencing new, often drastic, weather patterns and due to of climate change.
The creation of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity follows an executive order (EO) issued earlier this year by President Biden directing several federal agencies to establish similar offices and invest in environmental health equity initiatives, as well as a recently released report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showing disproportionate impacts of climate change in the contiguous United States. The office aims to assess the disproportionate impacts of climate-driven disasters on vulnerable populations and address the resulting health disparities. One of its key functions will be to assist with the creation of new regulations and guidance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the healthcare sector, which account for roughly 8.5% of all U.S. carbon emissions. Other functions of this office include:
- Identifying vulnerable populations and communities with disproportionate exposures to climate hazards
- Addressing health disparities compounded by climate impacts
- Promoting and translating research on the benefits of climate action across multiple sectors
- Enhancing the climate and health workforce
Counties support national initiatives and strategies that mitigate climate change's health and safety impacts and enhance community resiliency to protect our most vulnerable residents. This support stems from the instrumental role that local governments play in both protecting communities before, during and after natural disasters and in the delivery of local health and human services.
NACo urges our federal partners to work closely with counties on new initiatives and provide the necessary resources to address disparities. We will continue to monitor developments as the new office's agenda is shaped.
- NACo Blog: EPA releases report showing disproportionate impacts of climate change in the contiguous United States
- NACo Report: Managing Disasters at the County-Level – A Focus on Flooding
- NACo Report: The County Role in Promoting Health Equity During COVID-19