Graham Sustainability Institute

Climate Changes Health: Ensuring Environmental Justice Underlies Public Health’s Climate Change Work

Project Planning Team

Natalie Sampson (PI) - U-M Dearborn
Adrienne Hollis - WE ACT for Environmental Justice and George Washington University
Megan Latshaw - APHA Environment Section and Johns Hopkins University
Vernice Miller-Travis - Skeo
Paul Mohai - U-M School for Environment and Sustainability
Carmel Price - U-M Dearborn
Fatemeh Shafiei - Spelman College

Project Summary

Climate change is one of the biggest public health threats today, and it disproportionately impacts vulnerable and marginalized communities. Urgent response is needed to ensure that climate planning efforts move to address these disparities, rather than perpetuate them, by drawing on local and expert public health knowledge.
Understanding this challenge, the American Public Health Association (APHA) Environment Section's Environmental Justice (EJ) Subcommittee and national EJ leaders convened a pre-conference summit at the 2017 Annual Meeting to develop recommendations addressing the question:
How can we prioritize the needs of marginalized and vulnerable communities in public health’s efforts to engage in cross-sector local climate planning?
The event brought together environmental justice leaders, public health practitioners, scholars, science and health advocates, funders, and students. The day-long event included storytelling from EJ leaders about lessons learned; sharing of data, tools, and resources; keynote speakers; and facilitated roundtable work sessions. It was designed to increase the participation of community leaders from frontline communities and historically underrepresented students.
By bringing together local and scientific knowledge in public health, climate planning, and environmental justice, the project enabled a much needed synthesis across disciplines, sectors, and communities, and it facilitated new and enhanced community-academic partnerships to advance climate-related health research. The project developed clear recommendations for the APHA and other professional organizations and agencies for better preparing its leaders as researchers, practitioners, and advocates in multisector local climate planning efforts in ways that reflect environmental justice principles. 
This project received a $10,000 Catalyst Grant in 2017. Additional support provided by the Turner Foundation and the Union of Concerned Scientists.