WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the establishment of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), a significant step toward addressing the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations and communities of color.
Recent climate-change related disasters, including floods, extreme heat, and wildfires, underscore the need for creation of OCCHE and sustained federal action on global warming. The widespread damage caused by Hurricane Ida’s landfall in New Orleans on Aug. 28, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, further illustrates both the human dimension and traumatic impact of climate change.
The OCCHE is part of a larger response to President Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. The OCCHE’s expansive agenda includes:
- Identifying communities with disproportionate exposures to climate hazards and vulnerable populations.
- Addressing health disparities exacerbated by climate impacts to enhance community health resilience.
- Promoting and translating research on public health benefits of multi-sectoral climate actions.
- Assisting with regulatory efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and criteria air pollution throughout the health care sector, including participating suppliers and providers.
- Fostering innovation in climate adaptation and resilience for disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations.
- Providing expertise and coordination to the White House, Secretary of Health and Human Services and federal agencies related to climate change and health equity deliverables and activities, including Executive Order implementation, and reporting on health adaptation actions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- Promoting training opportunities to build the climate and health workforce and empower communities.
- Exploring opportunities to partner with the philanthropic and private sectors to support innovative programming to address disparities and health sector transformation.
The establishment of the OCCHE and its prescribed portfolio of work further aligns with several key climate-related policy recommendations outlined in NASW’s 2021 Blueprint of Federal Social Policy Priorities (socialworkers.org).
NASW recognizes that climate change is a driver of health disparities and will continue to support efforts to integrate health, mental health, and health equity in all climate policies across the federal government.