EXAMINING THE ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH EQUITY IMPLICATIONS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

A Satcher Health Leadership Institute & Environmental Defense Fund Collaborative

Atlanta, GA., October 22, 2020 – The Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, with support from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), convened a virtual meeting on October 22, 2020 to solicit policy recommendations from southern state representatives that would mitigate the disproportionate effects the climate crisis is having on vulnerable populations.

During this past summer, SHLI and key partners took the initiative in preparing to move the needle forward for healthy equity by convening the first ever collaborative for equity, environmental health and COVID-19 with multi-disciplinary, multi-sector representatives in the South, which is the area of the country that experiences the highest disparities in health, significant impact from climate change, including climate gentrification or displacement of minorities along the coastal communities, and COVID-19 hotspots.

Background

In the U.S., over 200,000 deaths have been attributed to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and morbidity and mortality rates continue to rise. Preliminary data has demonstrated that racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately impacted by the disease. However, to date, the available COVID -19 data for race and ethnicity remains inconsistent, as there is a lack of uniformity in the data collection across states and agencies. As such, efforts to advance health equity, in the wake of COVID-19, are hindered by under-reporting, misreporting, or lack of data on racial/ethnic minorities, environmental factors, socioeconomic status, and other disparity markers of high risk populations, severely disjointing the efforts that can be made in mitigating the widespread impact of this disease on these populations.

Based on the aforementioned factors, to examine the trajectory of COVID-19 implications for environmental health and climate change, this initiative will enable us to approach the disparate nature of this pandemic with garnering solutions and implications towards equitable outcomes relative to environmental health and climate change. The EDF funds are assisting SHLI in the creation of tools for the environmental and political determinants of health analysis, creation of a comprehensive report of our findings, and initiate a mainstream and social media campaign leveraging our key partners among general news media and those targeting diverse population groups.

Target States/Communities:   The initiative focuses on Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia. The project will include local, state, and federal policymakers, as well as health professionals, environmental health experts, public health professionals, and community leaders to discuss solutions and equitable outcomes in respective states and communities.

Future & Sustainable Efforts

At the conclusion of this event, we will disseminate our comprehensive report to all U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, associations representing governors, state legislators, public health departments, mayors of large and small cities in the South struggling with appropriate responses to the environmental health issues magnified by the pandemic. By the end of 2020, we will have developed a policy proposal for introduction in the new Congress beginning in 2021, to address the issues and the policy recommendations raised in our report, by the TriCaucus (Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus), Environmental Justice Caucus, and other congressional champions.

We thank our moderator for the event, David Introcaso, and acknowledge Representative Castor and Representative Carter for their participation. We also extend a tremendous thank you to our subject matter experts who informed participants of the state of climate change and the impacts on vulnerable communities.

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