Open Forum

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Open Forum

This is a space for conversation leaders and guests to pose specific questions or propose ideas to one another that have not been addressed in other sections. 

One of our most successful

One of our most successful strategies was to build a coalition of like minded organizations in the health care space. In 4 years the Healthy Hospital Initiative went from 12 to 1400 hospitals or health systems. All committed to some level of engagement to improve energy efficiency, local food sourcing, better waste management, etc. Using suggested goals, stories of others success, free entry level activity, and an amazingly hard working smart staff helped this new organization change the discussion in healthcare.

Introducing Fresh Energy's work

Taking this opportunity on the forum to introduce you all to Fresh Energy, a Minnesota-based 25-year-old NGO focused on science-based, independent climate and energy policy analysis and advocacy to address global warming at the scale of the problem. Every year since our founding, Fresh Energy has played a role in passing clean energy policy, always in partnership with many other organizations and businesses.

I'm J. Drake Hamilton, and serve as the Science Policy Director, focused on national, regional, and state policy to cut carbon aggressively. Our work includes working across sectors, and Fresh Energy has a successful history of partnering with health professionals on climate policy action. I had an invited article on health and federal climate policy published in 2009 in the journal Minnesota Medicine. Recently, Fresh Energy has been working with a large number of physicians, nurses, and public health officials in support of the federal Clean Power Plan and its strong implementation in Minnesota.

I spent 17 days at the Paris Climate Summit, part of the US Climate Action Network delegation, and met there with Secretary of State John Kerry during the last week of the conference. In August 2015 I was invited by President Barack Obama to join him and a small group of 12 climate advocates at the White House to celebrate the announcement of the Clean Power Plan.

Please check out Fresh Energy's work at to learn more, and follow me on Twitter:

What is the next big lever?


We are proud that each year we get  1000 participants at the  US National Health Care CleamMed meeting organized by Practice Green Health and HCWH. Impressive unless you also go to the national Green Build meeting that this last fall had 19000 engineers, architects, and builders all focused on low energy safer build environment. Somewhere between the health and social welfare impact and the economic opportunity there must be a convergence  of an approach that will connect with the many


My question for the group is how do we get the middle 70% moving, engaged, and at least willing to vote for a healthier future? I think the work by Drake and  Fresh Energy to mobilize the Family Docs in Minnesota is brilliant. How can that be spread...and can that model help  touch a much broader segment of the population?



Spreading successful models and mobilizing health professionals

Thanks for the kind words, Jeff, and I hope everyone will feel free to call me by my unusual nickname, which is J.

As for mobilizing busy health professionals, Fresh Energy has had good results using a rule of thumb effective in mobilizing in general that works especially well in this case: Many people are more motivated by success, for instance when they see that similar actions have achieved change, and that's why I spent a fair amount of time letting people know when others in their community have made a big change happen. For health professionals, my particular advice is to find ways they can plug in to communications that stay within their realm of expertise, so that they feel comfortable weighing in without needing to take time to develop a high degree of knowledge in other fields. So for example, health professionals speaking about health impacts, climate policy experts talking about policy, working in alignment.

I'll be happy to talk to folks and share ideas further beyond this week of conversation,

African American Physicians in Climate and Health Advoccy

An important effort by Dr. Mark Mitchell, Chair of the National Medical Association Council on Medical Legislation; Co-Chair of the National Medical Association Commission on Environmental Health and co-founder of Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice has conducted important research on climate and health. He and his colleagues surveyed African American physicians and found out that 88% of them are seeing health effects of climate change. You can find an article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health :


Climate Change and Human Health Book

 A new resource is the edited volume, Global Climate Change and Human Health: From Science to Practice edited by George Luber and Jay Lemmery. Includes the chapter .Protecting Environmental Justice Communities from the Detrimental Impacts of Climate Change (Nicky Sheats and Cecilia Martinez).

Address Climate Change Impacts in Health Community's Front Yards

In addition to the important leadership projects devoted to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in health facilities, and the critical work of preparing health professionals to treat the victims of climate disasters, we should hold up examples of health professionals successfully addressing carbon pollution and its impacts visible from the windows of their facilities. NYU Medical School's devastation by Superstorm Sandy and the lessens that provided about the need for much different design of facilities to ensure that valuable medical research and backup generators are sited above floodlines ( is a case in point.

In Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, some of our members who are Mayo physicians alerted Fresh Energy to another climate mitigation opportunity: downtown Rochester is the site of the state's oldest--and thus dirtiest--coal-burning power plant, built in the 1940s. About ten years ago, the Clinic had signed a contract to use steam from the coal burning to heat some of their facilities. Some of the medical faculty were alarmed that this premier health facility was encouraging more coal burning. As one physician stated: "We don't want to inadvertantly be creating more patients" because of reliance on burning coal within sight of Mayo's hospitals. Fresh Energy and many partners took on work with the physicians to reverse the business decision. Our action statement was that, in a health-care centered community such as Rochester, Minnesota, it just doesn't make sense any more to burn coal downtown. Fueling the health professionals' concern was the number of trains needed to bring coal every day to that power plant, rail traffic at street grade that delayed traffic--including ambulances--many times a day in Rochester. We lost that battle.

Fast forward to 3 years ago, when the owner of that coal-burning power plant decided, based on the increasingly bad economics of burning coal compared to the better economics of buying cleaner energy to power the community, to set a date in 2014 for burning the last lump of coal at the power plant. As the power company told a crowd at the local Rotary Club: "In addition, it just didn't make sense in this health care-focused community to keep burning coal next to the Mayo Clinic." Many years in the making, and dependent on improving clean energy economics as well as health care voices, but a victory of great significance for human health as well as for our climate. 


Sadly there are still many communities and often with the least assets that still get their power from coal and continue to feel the health effects. The irony of this being Mayo's steam source is not unique to health care or other publicly stated " values driven" organizations.

Another resource to help make the link with healthcare providers and policy makers is the new book by Levy and Patz called Climate Change and Public Health.

White House event on impacts of climate change on public health

Coming on Monday afternoon, April 4, 2016, at the White House and live webcast starting at 2PM Eastern Time, the White House will host a live event starting on the impacts of climate change on public health.

ADVISORY: White House to Host Climate & Health Event

WASHINGTON, DC - On Monday, April 4, at 2:00 PM, the White House will host an event focused on the impacts of climate change on public health. Building on the President's Climate Action Plan, the event will also highlight a climate and health announcement from the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Climate change poses a significant threat to the health of the American people. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health will grow, exacerbating existing health threats and creating new public health challenges. From children to the elderly, every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change, now and in the future.

WHEN:          Monday, April 4, 2:00 PM ET

WHERE:        Eisenhower Executive Office Building

                        Washington, D.C.

WHO:             Senior Administration officials and representatives from the public and private sectors

WEBCAST: This event will be webcast live at http:/<>.

Especially with the release of new health information from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, this announcement will provide significant media interest and opportunities for health professionals to comment, write op eds, and to talk with their elected representatives.