Atrium Health Leaders Attend White House Event, Pledging to Reduce Carbon Emission

06.30.2022 Atrium Health News

June 30 event focused on decarbonizing health care sector and making facilities more resilient to climate change

CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 30, 2022 Atrium Health has further deepened its commitment to reducing carbon emissions by signing the Health Care Sector Pledge at a White House event on Thursday, June 30. Eugene A. Woods, president and chief executive officer, and Dr. David Callaway, professor of emergency medicine and chief of crisis operations and sustainability, represented Atrium Health at the event, including a roundtable discussion with the Biden Administration. Atrium Health joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with industry colleagues to pledge meaningful action to decarbonize the health care sector and make health care facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change.

The June 30 White House event offered a sector-wide display of cooperation between Atrium Health, its private sector peers, and federal health systems. The event included leaders from companies and organizations representing hospitals and health centers, as well as pharmaceutical companies, medical device-makers, suppliers and group purchasing organizations.

“One lesson we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is the health care industry has a moral obligation, the social responsibility and the technical skills to tackle big, complex challenges – including climate change,” said Woods. ”As a leader in health, hope and healing, we must do everything we can to protect and preserve the environment that sustains our communities.”

In signing this pledge, Atrium Health has committed to meet the Biden administration’s climate goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and is already taking steps to reduce its climate impacts. This includes emissions reduction from on-site energy use, waste anesthetic gases, vehicle fleets and refrigerants; the designation of an executive-level leader to spearhead emissions reduction; conducting an inventory of its supply chain emissions impact; and developing a climate resilience plan for continuous operations that includes anticipating the needs of groups in its community that experience disproportionate risk of climate-related harm.

The World Health Organization places climate change as the single greatest human health threat of the 21st century. And, in September 2021, more than 200 medical and health journals worldwide, including The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine, co-published an editorial identifying global temperature rise as a major threat to public health. Research in recent years, including information from Yale and other studies, shows the U.S. health care sector is responsible for 8.5% to 10% of U.S. total carbon emissions.

“Climate change is already damaging human health and health care providers are on the front line,” said Callaway, who will be leading Atrium Health’s initiatives for achieving its pledge goals. “Climate change exacerbates lung disease, increases heart disease, worsens mental health and community violence, and results in massive increases in heat-related injuries. Clean water, clean air and green spaces are key for good health. As healers, we have to do our part to make changes that protect our environment and our health.”

The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), part of HHS under the Assistant Secretary for Health, developed the health sector climate pledge in conjunction with the White House to help focus industry response to climate change. In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, signatories also commit to producing detailed plans to build climate resilience for their facilities and the communities they serve.

“Public health decisions have to be based on the realities of climate change, and we all need to do more to make that happen at the national level,” said ADM Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. “We’re seeing right now what extreme temperatures and more severe storms can do to human health, environmental quality and our physical infrastructure. It’s great to see so many different companies and organizations come together to decarbonize and become partners in protecting human health from climate change. Today’s announcement is just the beginning of a longer ongoing effort with partners from across the medical sector, which is exactly the kind of big response we need as a country.”

Atrium Health began its energy efficiency journey in 2012, setting a goal to achieve a 20% energy reduction over five years. Since then, Atrium Health has invested over $12.5 million in energy efficiency projects, such as lighting retrofits and efficient temperature regulation control strategies in operating suites. Atrium Health has now surpassed a 30% reduction from the 2012 baseline.

“Health care has unique opportunities to reduce our environmental impact,” said Collin Lane, enterprise senior vice president of Atrium Health’s facilities management group. “Our energy needs for 24/7 operations, and even the emissions from operating room anesthesia gas waste, are all areas we can work to increase efficiency and reduce emissions.”

Atrium Health is also a 2022 EPA ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for the fifth year in a row. The health provider is also a network partner of Practice Greenhealth, the leading, nonprofit innovation and networking organization for sustainable health care. The organization provides tools, resources and scalable solutions that help the enterprise benchmark, set goals and implement strategies to reduce climate impacts, ensure continuity of care in extreme weather events and protect community health and well-being.

For more information about Atrium Health environmental stewardship, visit its environmental sustainability page.

About Atrium Health

Atrium Health is a nationally recognized leader in shaping health outcomes through innovative research, education and compassionate patient care. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Atrium Health is an integrated, nonprofit health system with more than 70,000 teammates serving patients at 40 hospitals and more than 1,400 care locations. It provides care under the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist name in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, region, as well as Atrium Health Navicent and Atrium Health Floyd in Georgia and Alabama. Atrium Health is renowned for its top-ranked pediatric, cancer and heart care, as well as organ transplants, burn treatments and specialized musculoskeletal programs. A recognized leader in experiential medical education and groundbreaking research, Wake Forest University School of Medicine is the academic core of the enterprise, including Wake Forest Innovations, which is advancing new medical technologies and biomedical discoveries. Atrium Health is also a leading-edge innovator in virtual care and mobile medicine, providing care close to home and in the home. Ranked nationally among U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals in eight pediatric specialties and for rehabilitation, Atrium Health has also received the American Hospital Association’s Quest for Quality Prize and its 2021 Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award, as well as the 2020 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Health Equity Award for its efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in care. With a commitment to every community it serves, Atrium Health seeks to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all, providing $2.46 billion last year in free and uncompensated care and other community benefits.

About the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity

The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) plays a vital role in protecting the nation’s health from climate change-related risks, including extreme heat, natural disasters, vector-borne diseases and more. OCCHE is looking forward to providing technical supports to companies that wish to reduce their environmental impact and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change, setting national health goals and objectives and supporting programs, services, and education activities that improve the health of all Americans. OCCHE is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To learn more about OCCHE visit