Kaiser Permanente Healthy Environment, Healthy People

At Kaiser Permanente, on Earth Day and every day, we know that climate change affects the environment and impacts the health of our members and communities.

How climate change affects health Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns due to human activity. It increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, which have many impacts on human health.

Heat waves are longer and more intense. Floods cause more damage. Hurricanes are stronger and wetter. These extreme events can lead to injuries and deaths. They also can lead to poor health. Here are some examples.

• Climate change is contributing to mosquitoes and ticks being able to live in more places. Those insects spread illnesses like Lyme disease and West Nile virus to more people.
• Climate change is increasing air pollution. Poor air quality can cause or worsen lung and heart disease.
• Climate change is increasing the amount of pollen plants, leading to more intense and longer allergy seasons.

And not everyone is equally at risk. Climate change causes more harm to children, older adults, people of color, and people with low incomes.

At Kaiser Permanente, our work to protect the environment is part of everything we do, from the way we power our facilities to how we purchase medical supplies and equipment and support our communities.

For example, a Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa medical office building recently was the first health care building in the United States to achieve net-zero status, meaning it produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements.

The facility has substantial energy-efficiency features. Its parking lot is covered by solar panels, generating more than 600 kilowatts of power, or enough to run 3,000 average-size refrigerators. Instead of gas-fired boilers, heat pumps regulate the building’s temperature and hot water. Outside insulation and special windows adjust to the sun, which reduces the need for air-conditioning inside.

Many of Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s newest buildings, including our new genomics lab open in April this year, have also earned LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for energy efficiency and environmental design. They are being built with low- or non-emitting materials to improve indoor air quality, have a small carbon footprint, and use less water than typical health care facilities.

In 2020, Kaiser Permanente became the first U.S. health care organization to achieve certified carbon neutral status. Now, 100% of our electricity is coming from renewable sources. Moving forward, we are striving to do even more. We aim to reduce all our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and we are working to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.