Multiple environmental factors contribute to the health inequities experienced by vulnerable populations in the U.S. These environmental health injustices persist despite well-developed systems for both public health and environmental protection. This poster will highlight the challenges, innovations, and lessons learned about spanning boundaries between science and decision making, government and community, and environment and public health at the local level.
Low-income and marginalized urban communities often suffer disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards, leaving residents vulnerable to associated health problems. Community groups, academics, environmental justice advocates, government agencies, and others have worked to address these issues, building coalitions at the local level to change the policies and systems that create environmental health inequities. This poster examines ways that communities can collaborate across systems and sectors to address environmental health disparities. It highlights in-depth case studies of three long-term efforts to address chronic environmental health issues: childhood lead poisoning in Rochester, New York; unhealthy built environments in Duluth, Minnesota; and pollution related to commercial ports and international trade in Southern California. All three efforts were locally initiated, driven by local stakeholders, and each addressed issues long known to the community by reframing an old problem in a new way. These local efforts leveraged diverse resources to impact community change by focusing on inequities in environmental health, bringing diverse kinds of knowledge to bear, and forging new connections among existing community, academic, and government groups.
The once integrated environmental and public health management systems have become separated into self-contained “silos” of distinct policies, regulations, levels of government, and agencies. This poster will highlight how current efforts to bridge these separations parallel the development of ecosystem management in the 1990s. It will examine how such innovative efforts developed in environmental justice communities despite limited financial resources. It analyzes each cases unique constellation of human, knowledge, and financial resources leveraged through collaboration to accomplish systems change.
Throughout the country, community groups, researchers, government officials, and health professionals are working collaboratively – and often unofficially - at the local level to shape decisions about the built environment in ways that better protect vulnerable populations. This poster concludes with a framework to promote health equity through innovative local collaboration to promote environmental health and justice. The framework can be applied to other communities and issues to inform local efforts to address longstanding environmental issues and promote health equity.
- Katrina Korfmacher, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester