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Wall Street Journal: Climate change to be treated as public health issue

by Stephanie Armour

The Department of Health and Human Services has launched an office that will treat climate change as a public-health issue, designed to address what the White House says are health risks, including those that disproportionately affect poor and minority communities.

Many details of the new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, which will report to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and the assistant secretary for health, were outlined in a January executive order on climate, part of President Biden’s efforts to use the power of the federal government to address the environmental effects of changing weather.

“Its mission is to protect the health of people experiencing a disproportionate share of climate impacts and health inequities from wildfires to drought, to hurricanes to floods,” Mr. Becerra said at a news briefing Monday.

The new office is likely to spur initiatives touching on many aspects of healthcare, HHS officials announced Monday. It is expected to offer protections for populations most at risk—including the elderly, minorities, rural communities and children, and the office could eventually compel hospitals and other care facilities to reduce carbon emissions.

Asked how HHS would reduce carbon emissions from healthcare facilities, Mr. Becerra said: “We will use every authority to its greatest advantage because it is time to tackle climate change now.”

Officials said one of the first tasks for the office would be to take accounting of greenhouse gas emissions from various parts of the healthcare sector. They also said they don’t yet have specific goals for the reduction in emissions they want from healthcare facilities.

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