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Environmental Factor January 2022: Environmental Justice Workshop unites NIEHS advocates and researchers

Environmental Factor January 2022: Environmental Justice Workshop unites NIEHS advocates and researchers

Darlene Dixon, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Robin Arnette

Adding to its list of initiatives to address environmental racism, environmental health disparities (EHD), and issues related to environmental justice (EJ), NIEHS hosted a workshop on Dec. 10 titled “Racial discrimination as a public health issue: Through the lens of Environmental Health Disparities, and Environmental Justice: From Problems To Solutions.”

The virtual gathering attracted more than 700 people and offered There were opportunities for sharing learning and dialogue between staff at NIEHS, other federal agencies, grassroots organizations, and members of the community. The workshop featured Keynote presentations and panel discussion that featured nationally and international-respected EJ leaders, as well as renowned advocates from North Carolina.

Collaborative solutions

Darlene Dixon, D.V.M., Ph.D., a scientist in Mechanistic Toxicology Branch at the NIEHS Division. Robin Arnette, Ph.D., science editor in the institute’s Office of Communications and Public Liaison, co-chaired the EJ Workshop Planning Committee (see first Sidebar). The committee members from NIEHS are part of a larger group at the institute called the Environmental Justice and Environmental Health Disparities(EHD-EJ Faculty (see second Sidebar).

Darlene Dixon, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Robin ArnetteDixon, left, is co-chairing this workshop. Arnette, right is one of the co-leads. (Photos courtesy Steve McCaw/NIEHS)

The workshop’s goal was to come up with solutions that would work for all communities and address environmental justice issues as well as environmental health disparities.Dixon stated. It is the beginning of a long, hopefully fruitful partnership.

A day-long event

The Agenda for the workshopEach session consisted of four sessions with short breaks. Participants were treated to interactive trivia called “Know Your EJ” after lunch. The workshop was packed with presentations and discussions, so there wasn’t time to answer all the questions that attendees proposed. Dixon stated that the workshop website will have the questions and answers in early 2022. Also, video recordings of the workshop presentations will be available.

Session one included a historical overview on EJ and its consequences with talks from well-known leaders such as Nancy Krieger, Ph.D. (Harvard T.H.). Robert Bullard, Ph.D. from Texas Southern University; Peggy Shepard, of WE ACT for Environmental Justice; Chan School of Public Health.

Trash and pollution with another picture of Community members working together to clean up environmentThe workshop brought together community members, scientists from NIEHS and other federal agency scientists, and academic researchers.Examine racism as a public-health issue.(Image courtesy NIEHS

North Carolina-based speakers from session two were heavily involved with the organization of the workshop. They were Crystal CavalierKeck and Jason Keck. 7 Directions of Service; Naema Mohammed from the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network(NCEJN); Omega Wilson, Brenda Wilson and Ayo Wilson are from the West End Revitalization Association (WERA).

They shared information on a number of important topics, including the health inequities of indigenous populations, the negative effects that living near concentrated animal feed operations has on human health, and fighting for basic human necessities and better infrastructure for persons of color. A panel discussion followed.

CavalierKeck said, “It felt good to have a place at the table, and to be included in discussion and give our native points of view that were historically silenced,”

Community-engaged research

The afternoon session included important national topics. EJ academic researchers and community partners shared their experiences in building authentic partnerships in New York City and Detroit. The fourth session featured a panel discussion.

Amy Schulz, Ph.D., University of Michigan School of Public Health said that it was an honor to play a small roll in this important event. “I look forward seeing the work continue.”

NIEHS is in it for the long-term

In his closing remarks, NIEHS Director and National Toxicology Program director Rick Woychik, Ph.D., reiterated the institute’s commitment to advance EJ research and better understand the approaches that will help communities of color deal with decades of health inequities. He stated that it was vital to work with others when addressing complex, multi-sectoral issues.

Woychik stated, “I am asking the EHD-EJ Faculty for creative, innovative recommendations to present to me and senior leadership of NIEHS.” “I’m asking the EHD-EJ Faculty to consider partnerships with other NIH Institutes and federal agencies supporting work on this topic.”

Environmental Health Disparities & Environmental Justice Faculty in the center surrounded by images of people and the environment

(Image courtesy NIEHS

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