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05/05/2019

Kaiser's Kathy Gerwig Discusses Her Organization's Effort to Go Carbon Neutral By Next Year Improving the Lives of Millions (May 3rd)

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After the food industry health care is considered this country's second largest emitter of green house gas (GHG) pollution.  With emissions equal to approximately 655m metric tons of CO2 equivalents annually, if the health care industry was its own country it would rank 13th worldwide in GHG emissions.  Yale researchers have estimated the industry's GHG emissions alone are “commensurate with” the 44,000 to 98,000 annual hospital deaths the Institute of Medicine estimated from preventable medical errors nearly 20 years ago.  In addition, more recent research has shown that compared to similarly sized organizations, very few health care organizations make the effort to report their GHG emissions via the Carbon Disclosure Project or by other means.  

During this 29-minute conversation Ms. Gerwig discusses the climate change related adverse health effects Kaiser providers are currently treating.  In California, these result largely from air quality compromised by wildfires.  Moreover, she discusses the specifics concerning Kaiser's recent purchase of 180 MW of clean/renewable energy (wind and solar) along with battery storage, the expected return on this investment, patient and employee reaction to Kaiser's carbon neutral efforts,  related state efforts via the newly-formed CA Health Care Climate Alliance, Kaiser's 2017 issuance of $1 billion in green bonds and additional efforts to reduce KP's carbon footprint via improvements in supply chain management, transportation, water consumption and waste management.   Kaiser anticipates they will be carbon neutral (Katy defines as Scope 1 and 2) by next year. 

Ms. Kathy Gerwig is currently Kaiser Permanente's VP of Employee Safety, Health and Wellness and also serves as KP's Environmental Stewardship Officer.  She is responsible for organizing and 0managing KP's nationwide environmental initiative.  In forwarding this work Kathy has testified twice to Congress on the need for federal chemical policy reform, and she has appeared at numerous hearings on environmental issues.  Ms. Gerwig is also KP's national leader for Employee Safety and Health and Wellness, responsible for eliminating workplace injuries and reducing health risks for the organization.  Prior to joining KP 1993, Ms. Gerwig was an environmental and economic development consultant to businesses and public agencies in the United States and Europe.  Prior still she worked for nonprofit environmental organizations in California.  Ms. Gerwig holds a MBA with honors, from Pepperdine University and a bachelor’s in geography and environmental studies from San Francisco State University.  She is a certified professional health care risk manager, a certified professional environmental auditor, and a certified health care environmental manager.  Her 2014 book published by Oxford and titled, Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet, examines the intersections of health care and environmental health both in terms of harmful impacts and the revolution underway to address them.

The Kaiser press release noted is at: https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/community-health/news/kaiser-permanente-finalizes-agreement-to-enable-carbon-neutralit

Information on Greening Health Care is at: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/greening-health-care-9780199385836?cc=us&lang=en&

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