The White House Formally Recognizes the Link Between Health Care and Climate Change with Its Champions of Change Awards

Names "Champions of Change" in Health Environmental Sustainability

For Release: July 9, 2013

Contact: Christie Phillips
Healthier Hospitals Initiative 
(703) 309-0410

Reston, VA—Following President Obama's announcement of his vision to reduce carbon pollution and lead the global effort to lessen the impacts of climate change, The White House has revealed its 2013 Public Health and Climate Change “Champions of Change.” These individuals are being recognized for their stellar contributions and leadership in health care environmental sustainability, raising awareness about the potential health consequences of climate change, and helping their communities prepare for climate related health impacts. Among these Champions, the White House has named Jeffrey E. Thompson, MD, Chief Executive Officer and chairman of the boards of Gundersen Health System, and Gary Cohen, Founder of the Healthier Hospitals Initiatives (HHI), and President of Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth, Champions of Change today during an official ceremony.

"Under Dr. Thompson's leadership, long-time Practice Greenhealth member and sponsoring system of HHI, Gundersen Health System has provided national leadership in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability programs," said Laura Wenger, RN, Executive Director of Practice Greenhealth. "Dr. Thompson is more than deserving of this recognition and we are so thrilled that he has received this honor from The White House. We are proud to be associated with him as the newest Practice Greenhealth board member."

The White House Champions of Change program recognizes ordinary Americans who are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.

"To be recognized by The White House is such an honor not just for me, but for our staff at Gundersen who are creating a healthier environment for our patients and our communities," said Jeffrey E. Thompson, MD, CEO, Gundersen Health System. "I hope that Gundersen can be an example for health care organizations across the U.S., showing them that is both possible and practical to implement environmentally sustainable efforts. As health care professionals, it’s the right thing to do for our patients and communities who entrust us to provide a safe, healthy environment."

Under Dr. Thompson's leadership, Gundersen Health System is on track to be 100 percent energy independent in 2014, has achieved $1.3 million in annual savings and a 25 percent energy improvement through energy conservation efforts, and is projected to save $500,000 each year through a biomass boiler project. In addition, Gundersen has made significant strides in renewable energy, recycling and solid waste management, and healthier foods.

“We appreciate that the White House understands the link between the health of people, the health of the planet, and the role that health care plays in leading change in communities,” said Seema Wadhwa, Director of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. “Dr. Thompson’s achievements and Gary Cohen's early sustainability leadership are stellar examples of how the efforts of one person can have such an impact on shaping the future of health care sustainability."

Gundersen Health System was part of the steering committee for and a charter member of the Department of Energy Hospital Energy Alliance (now the Better Building Alliance—Healthcare Sector). Gundersen has been a member of Practice Greenhealth’s Environmental Leadership Circle for seven consecutive years, and is a Sponsoring System of HHI, a free national Initiative to provide hospitals with the tools and resources to accelerate the greening of the health care sector.

A leader in health care sustainability since the 1980s, Gary Cohen is Founder of HHI and President of HCWH and Practice Greenhealth. Cohen is former Executive Director of the Environmental Health Fund, which facilitates coalitions and networks on domestic and global chemical safety issues. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal, India, which provides free medical care to the survivors of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal. In addition to the White House honor, Cohen was awarded the Skoll Global Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2006 and the Frank Hatch Award for Enlightened Public Service Award in 2007.

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About Practice Greenhealth
Practice Greenhealth is the nation’s leading membership and networking organization for institutions in the health care community that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices. Members include hospitals, health care systems, businesses, Group Purchasing Organizations, community health centers and other stakeholders engaged in the greening of health care to improve the health of patients, staff and the environment. For more information on Practice Greenhealth, visit

About the Healthier Hospitals Initiative
The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) is a national campaign to implement a new approach to improving environmental health and sustainability in the health care sector. Led by 13 sponsoring organizations and three nonprofits, HHI challenges hospitals to reduce waste in six Challenge areas: Engaged Leadership, Healthier Food, Leaner Energy, Less Waste, Safer Chemicals and Smarter Purchasing. More information is available at

About Champions of Change
To watch this event live, visit at 10:45 am ET on July 9th. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program and nominate a Champion, visit