Climate change is an urgent public health issue and addressing it is a priority for Blue Shield of California. We recently announced our NextGen sustainability goals, which outline our climate action plans. These commitments are also part of Blue Shield’s efforts to achieve health equity throughout California, where research shows pollution and poor air quality disproportionately impact communities of color.
We can’t effectively tackle climate change alone, so we’re collaborating with experts and trusted community organizations. Our new video (below) features perspectives from two climate action leaders who are helping advance our NextGen goals.
Justin Valenzuela, youth activist and co-founder of Renegade Feedings, is a member of Covenant House’s Youth Action Board, a Blue Shield grantee. By mobilizing food, resources, and other support for homeless Californians, he’s seen firsthand how wildfires and pollution have made his unhoused neighbors’ situations more dangerous. Valenzuela calls on his peers to help drive action: “[climate change] intersects with homelessness, with racial and social justice. Truly, the youth, we are the next generation. We are the next step to making change.”
Diane Takvorian, executive director of Environmental Health Coalition, another Blue Shield grantee, is committed to promoting racial equity and combatting environmental racism. “Climate change is one of the most important issues we can address, not only for the health of our planet, but for human health and for racial justice,” Takvorian said.
Blue Shield's own Dr. James Cruz, senior medical director for Blue Shield Promise Health Plan, says he sees more patients with pulmonary problems, higher rates of allergic reactions, more emergency room visits and hospitalizations, lower life expectancy, and lower quality of life – all disproportionately in communities of color. But he is hopeful that if we work together, we can begin to reverse the damage to the environment. “We can essentially save our planet,” he said, “And not only for ourselves, but for our kids and our grandkids.”