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Massini, Black: ‘Responsible stewards of the environment’

Below is a message from Dr. Kevin Black, interim dean of Penn State College of Medicine, and Steve Massini, CEO of Penn State Health, that was sent to employees on April 22, 2020:

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. While Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine are understandably focused on COVID-19 this week, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the importance of this day.

Studies have shown that disruptions to our world’s physical, biological and ecological systems is leading to increased respiratory and cardiovascular diseases; extreme weather causing injuries and death; changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and waterborne illnesses and other infectious diseases; and threats to mental health. Climate change is perhaps the single greatest threat to future generations of all living things.

We care for people every day whose health is affected by the environment, including the many patients who are coping with pulmonary diseases already. We have research underway to study the correlation between our environment and health. Yet our nation’s health care system – and that includes us – also are among the biggest contributors to the problem. A 2018 study by The Commonwealth Fund stated that the U.S. health care system is the seventh-largest producer of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to air pollution. Air pollution contributes to more than 100,000 deaths in the United States each year. Worldwide, that number is 8.8 million.

Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine’s Sustainability Council had planned a week of Earth Day events to educate and engage our workforce in measures already underway on our campuses to conserve energy and water usage, improve air quality, promote recycling and healthy lifestyles, and restoring native trees and wildflowers.

When COVID-19 is behind us, we will resurrect this topic because we are passionate about it – and we know many of you are, too. We look forward to working together to improve public health by being responsible stewards of our environment.

Steve Massini
Penn State Health

Kevin Black, MD
Interim Dean
Penn State College of Medicine

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