Climate change and environmental policies play a huge role in our health and, if left unchecked, can adversely affect vulnerable communities and exacerbate health inequalities.
Last week, the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health (CEEJH) program at the University of Maryland School of Public Health brought together environmental professionals to 8th Annual UMD Symposium on Environmental Justice and Health Inequities.
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The symposium featured several keynotes and breakout sessions, both face-to-face and virtual, over three days. One of the must-know panels was “Environmental Justice and Environmental Health Disparities”, where several panelists discussed the concrete ways climate is impacting the health of vulnerable communities and possible solutions. did.
Ami Zota, Ph.D., associate professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, focuses on the intersectionality of environmental health and justice, and the impact of racism and sexism on black and brown women. For example, due to European-centric beauty standards, black and Latino women are more likely to use beauty products that may contain harmful ingredients, Zota said. Zota said a multi-sectoral approach is needed, where changes in social norms of policy makers, businesses and communities must occur in order to bring about meaningful change.
“The big elephant in the room is that the chemicals in our products are very unregulated,” Zota said during the discussion. “There are no laws to keep us safe.”
Zota’s work also includes working with community-based organizations to develop intervention studies to help women of color transition to using healthier beauty products and practices. included.
Adrian Hollis, Ph.D., vice president of environmental justice, health and community empowerment at the National Wildlife Federation, on how racist environmental policies contributed to widening health disparities in communities of color. talked. Hollis said historic redlining and other practices have exacerbated housing conditions in vulnerable communities, putting them at greater risk of not only natural disasters but also health problems.
“When a home is flooded, people can end up in a constant exposure to mold and mildew, including black mold, because they don’t have the money to repair and repair it,” Hollis said. “Insurance departments can also play a role here. For example, a house may not be insured unless he lifts it 10 feet. Hmm.”
Hollis outlined a comprehensive framework to study the impacts of climate change across multiple sectors, including race, ethnicity, economic status, and other social determinants of health.
“We need sustainable ways to eat and dress ourselves. We need to eat and drink and live in a safe environment. Equitable development and infrastructure, We need safe access to schools and recreational facilities, an improved economy.We must first consider the challenges facing the environmental justice community, but ultimately all communities arise from the confluence of problems and stressors. have to consider.”
See full discussion here.