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Environmental Factor March 2022: Climate Change can cause health problems in underserved areas

Environmental Factor March 2022: Climate Change can cause health problems in underserved areas

Robert Bullard, Ph.D.

Robert Bullard, Ph.D. is often referred to by many as the father in environmental justice. He discussed the topic during a NIH-wide seminar on February 9.

Robert Bullard, Ph.D.Bullard is a respected professor of urban planning at Texas Southern University. (Photo courtesy Robert Bullard

According to the Center for Health Equity, climate change and related weather catastrophes are continuing threats to health equity within underprivileged communities. Robert Bullard, Ph.D., Texas Southern University

He was the featured speaker at the fourth installment of National Institutes of Health’s Climate Change and Health Seminar Series. It took place Feb. 9. The event was hosted by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Bullard is a recipient of NIEHS and NIMHD grants.

Climate change and the health of our planet

The NIH-wide seminar series was created. Climate Change and Health Initiative.

  • This initiative aims to reduce climate change-related health threats across the lifespan and increase resilience in individuals, communities, and especially those most at high risk.
  • “This monthly seminar series is one of the initiative’s efforts to raise awareness and build interest in Climate change and health research(https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/cchhl/) to better understand why this health threat disproportionately affects populations with health disparities,” said Pérez-Stable.
Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.“Climate change and health are important issues for our institute,” said Pérez-Stable during his opening remarks. (Photo courtesy NIMHD).

Geographic inequalities

Zip codeBullard stated that it is a predictor for health and well-being.

  • Bullard says that the burden of Climate ChangeCommunities of color are most affected by climate-related issues, such as heatwaves, poor air quality and flooding.
  • “People of color — Who has contributed the most to climate change and the climate crisis — feel the pain first, worst, and longest,” he noted, adding that response to climate-related disasters should be more equitable and just.

Mental and physical well-being

“The climate crisis is a health issue, a physical issue, and a mental health issue,” said Bullard.

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  • The American Public Health AssociationThere are estimates that 25-50% of those exposed to extreme weather catastrophes are at risk of mental health problems. Half of adults and 45% for children experience depression after such major events.
  • Bullard claims that 74% live in areas with low natural resources, and climate change could only increase the problem. He noted that ensuring there is more green space and trees can improve air quality and physical health.
  • “Trees don’t discriminate, of course, but rich Americans nevertheless enjoy almost 50% more greenery in their environment compared to low-income communities,” Bullard said.

Equity is our goal

Bullard — A member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Committee — discussed programs and strategies that will help communities vulnerable to climate change.

  • The Justice40 InitiativePresident Joe Biden created this fund in 2021 in order to ensure that 40% of federal investments in climate and clean electricity go to disadvantaged communities. Priorities include flood mitigation and drinking water quality, reducing home lead hazards, rural energy and other environmental health-related programs.
  • “Health equity can be a lens through which we examine these issues,” said Bullard. Health equity is One of the core elementsSee the Strategic Framework for the Climate Change and Health Initiative. Sidebar).
  • Bullard advised communities to increase efforts to build on past successes. He gave the example of a partnership. Beverly Wright, Ph.D.From the Deep South Center for Environmental JusticeDeveloped in collaboration with the NIEHS Worker Training Program. They train and certify workers to respond in emergency situations and work towards restoration and remediation of vulnerable communities. The program also offers employment opportunities.

Presentations from the NIH Climate Change and Health Webinar Series Available for viewing.

(Jennifer Harker is a Ph.D. technical writer-editor at the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.


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