October 2018 Champion!

Aparna Bole, MD, FAAP Pediatrics, Cleveland, OH

Aparna Bole, MD, FAAP
Pediatrics, Cleveland, OH 

Cleveland’s new UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children is gray and light blue, but don’t be fooled. It’s green. Dr. Aparna Bole worked hard to make sure of that.

The pediatrician and Medical Director of Community Integration at UH Rainbow was a champion for the Center’s environmental performance as an integral part of its community health mission. The Center’s site and campus plan support multimodal transportation, its passive solar design helps to optimize energy efficiency, and about half of the energy for the 40,000-square-foot facility comes from onsite solar panels.

Dr. Bole and her colleagues helped to position the Center’s construction as an opportunity to catalyze vibrant, inclusive development in the surrounding community – a “hire local” strategy was integral to that goal.  For example, the Center’s solar installation included the Evergreen Cooperatives, which are worker-owned businesses that help to create green jobs and economic stability in low-wealth Cleveland neighborhoods.

Community stakeholders, patients, and families collaborated with hospital leadership in the Center’s design and programming.  For this diverse group, Dr. Bole framed the climate and health benefits of the Center’s green building goals to reflect the priorities and values of her audience. For clinical employees, she emphasized the direct health benefits of green building and climate action. For community partners, she highlighted the links to health equity and social justice. Patients served by the UH Rainbow Center come from groups that are disproportionately at risk from environmental hazards, including climate change – including children, pregnant women, people of color, those with chronic health conditions, and people living in poverty.

Dr. Bole approaches climate action as fundamentally a child health issue.  “It helps to depoliticize an issue that shouldn’t be partisan in the first place,” she says. ”The clinician’s moral and scientific authority provides an important platform for advocacy.”

Dr. Bole talks with patients and families about climate change and health, as well. In Northeast Ohio, “climate change is already affecting my patients,” she says. “For example, kids with asthma and allergies are experiencing symptoms earlier in spring and later in fall, with earlier blooms and later frosts. In the summer, young athletes suffer from training outside on increasingly frequent high heat and poor air quality days. My patients and their families can understand that climate action is essential for their health and the health of our community – that’s why they can be powerful allies and advocates.”