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New Program to Improve Health Equity and Climate Resilience in over 100 U.S. Clinics

  • April 20, 2022
  • Climate Change, Community Health, Health Initiatives
  • United States
  • Hurricane Michael caused major damage to a free clinic in Panama City, Fla., in 2018. Photo by William Vazquez/Americares.

Johnson & Johnson commits $2 million to help secure health care access for underserved communities vulnerable to climate change

Stamford, Conn.  April 20, 2022 Americares, the health-focused relief and development organization, today announced an exciting new effort to improve health equity for U.S. patients on the frontlines of climate change.

Americares is launching the Climate Health Equity for Community Clinics Program with a $2 million grant from Johnson & Johnson. The three-year program will strengthen the resilience of over 100 safety net health clinics in areas where climate change disproportionately impacts the health of vulnerable communities.

“We are so grateful for Johnson & Johnson’s incredible support. Together we will advance health equity in communities experiencing the health impacts of climate change now and those at risk in the future,” said Americares President and CEO Christine Squires. “Those most affected by climate change often have the fewest resources. This gift allows us to better prepare clinics for more volatile weather and help prevent avoidable health emergencies.”

Americares will work in collaboration with the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), Johnson & Johnson and health care providers at participating free clinics and community health centers to design tailored interventions that meet the needs of under-resourced and over-worked staff. By improving clinic operations and health resilience, the program aims to protect patients’ health during heatwaves, wildfires, hurricanes, floods and other climate-related emergencies.

This initiative is part of Johnson & Johnson’s broader approach to climate action and is aligned with the company’s Our Race to Health Equity, an enterprise-wide initiative launched in 2020 to help eradicate racial and social injustice as a public health threat by eliminating health inequities for people of color. More than 90 percent of free clinic and community health center patients qualify as low income, and more than half identify as racial and ethnic minorities.

“At Johnson & Johnson, we are committed to driving positive change on issues that affect the health of the people we serve—including the issue of climate change and health equity,” said Johnson & Johnson Chief Sustainability Officer Paulette Frank. “We are proud to work with Americares and Harvard Chan C-CHANGE to support the climate resilience of health care clinics and health care workers in underserved communities so that people have access to care when they need it most.”

According to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, rapid mitigation measures are needed to avoid unsustainable global warming that’s leading to deadlier storms, more intense heat waves, rising seas and other climate-related disasters.

The World Health Organization has declared climate change the single biggest threat to humanity—putting clean air, safe drinking water, secure housing and food supplies at risk—and projects climate change will cause an additional 250,000 global deaths annually from 2030 to 2050, largely due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. Air pollution from fossil fuels can also cause chronic respiratory illness, such as asthma and COPD that can have a devastating effect on health and quality of life.

“When it comes to health care, climate action is often about reducing energy use at hospitals, but with this project we’re shifting that paradigm,” said Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director at Harvard Chan C-CHANGE. “We’re focusing on at-risk patients and the clinics that serve them in communities where health disparities are stark. We want to find ways to protect their health through interventions before climate shocks occur and, in doing so, promote health equity.”

Clinic recruitment will begin this spring with a goal of launching the project in five to 10 pilot clinics later this year. Americares will lead the recruitment of clinics that will be selected based on the diversity of health services provided, the health disparities documented in their patient populations and the climate risks in their respective geographic regions. The Climate Health Equity for Community Clinics Program aims to engage 100 to 150 clinics across the country by 2025.

This grant builds upon a long-standing relationship between the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies and Americares. Johnson & Johnson has generously supported Americares health programs for people affected by poverty or disaster for more than 30 years, donating products and funding to save lives and improve health.

Americares helps communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters; increase accessibility, availability, affordability and acceptability of medicine and medical supplies; and improve and expand health services, prevent disease and promote good health. Since it was established more than 40 years ago, Americares has provided over $20 billion in aid to 164 countries, including the United States. 

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