9 ways UC San Diego is taking action on climate, health

Climate change is a factor that continually affects health determinants and increases infection risk factors in regions across the globe, according to the World Health Organization. San Diego is no stranger to the effects, and local health systems are working to combat it.

Several atmospheric rivers prompted by warmer climate conditions in the region this winter caused flooding throughout California, including in San Diego. Between 2000 and 2015 alone, instances of high tide flooding increased between 25 percent and 50 percent in the San Diego Bay and La Jolla areas — and climate events like this not only threaten physical locations of care facilities, but the health of the population in the region. 

It's what prompted University of California at San Diego Health to reevaluate its climate and sustainability initiatives and bring them up to speed to protect the longevity of healthcare in the community.

"It's important for us to understand that our relationship with the environment has a direct impact on our health," Shira Abeles, MD, medical director of sustainability for UC San Diego Health, said in an April 17 statement. "And while climate change is a culprit in driving disease in every aspect of our health, from emergence of new infectious diseases to asthma, premature births, and beyond, if we optimize our health care practices, we will help curb these impacts and prevent disease from occurring in the first place."

Nine steps the system is taking, according to UC San Diego Today News, to further these efforts include: 

  1. Achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 and net-zero emissions by 2045.
  2. Using at least 34 percent of renewable energy across its Hillcrest and La Jolla hospital campuses in the region.
  3. Having fully clean electricity at its hospital campuses by 2025.
  4. Discontinuing the use of an anesthetic gas that is harmful to the atmosphere.
  5. Reducing plastic bag use across its labor and delivery units.
  6. Incorporating plant-based food options into hospital meals.
  7. Doing away with single-use plastics in facility cafeterias. 
  8. Using sustainable high-efficiency systems in operating rooms.
  9. Using more sustainable HVAC systems to reduce energy usage overall.

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