Adding to its list of initiatives to tackle environmental racism, environmental health disparities (EHD) and issues related to environmental justice (EJ), the NIEHS hosted a workshop on December 10 titled “Addressing Racism as a Public Health Issue Through the Lens of Environmental Health disparities and environmental justice: from problems to solutions. “
The virtual gathering attracted over 700 participants and offered shared opportunities for learning and dialogue between NIEHS staff and other federal agencies; grassroots organizations; and community members. The workshop included presentations and panel discussions featuring nationally and internationally renowned JE leaders, including renowned advocates from North Carolina.
Find collaborative solutions
Darlene Dixon, DVM, Ph.D., scientist in the Mechanical Toxicology Branch of the NIEHS Division of the National Toxicology Program, and Robin Arnette, Ph.D., Science Editor in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison at the he institute, co-chaired the planning committee of the EJ workshop (see first box). The NIEHS members of the committee are part of a larger working group at the institute known as the Faculty of Disparities in Environmental Health and Environmental Justice (EHD-EJ) (see second box).
“The aim of the workshop was to find collaborative solutions to environmental health disparities and environmental justice issues that disproportionately affect affected communities,“Dixon said.” This is the start of a long and hopefully fruitful partnership. “
One day event
The workshop agenda was divided into four sessions, with short breaks. After lunch, participants were treated to an interactive quiz session titled “Know Your EJ”. The workshop was filled with presentations and discussions, so there was no time to answer all of the questions proposed by the participants. Dixon said the questions and answers will be posted on the workshop’s website in early 2022, along with video recordings of the workshop presentations.
The first session provided a historical overview of JE and its consequences with presentations by well-known leaders including Nancy Krieger, Ph.D., Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; Robert Bullard, Ph.D., of Texas Southern University; and Peggy Shepard, from WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
Speakers based in North Carolina for session two were heavily involved in the organization of the workshop. They included Crystal Cavalier-Keck and Jason Keck from 7 operating instructions; Naeema Muhammad from North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN); and Omega Wilson, Brenda Wilson and Ayo Wilson from West End Revitalization Association (WERA).
They presented information on several key topics, including the health inequalities faced by indigenous populations, the negative effects of living near concentrated animal feeding operations, and the struggle for basic human facilities and equipment. better infrastructure for people of color. A round table followed.
“It was a good feeling to have a seat at the table, to be included in the discussion and to give our Indigenous perspectives that have historically been silenced,” Cavalier-Keck said.
In the afternoon, discussions broadened to include important national topics. In the third session, YE academic researchers and their community partners described how they are working together to build authentic partnerships in New York City, Detroit, and the Indigenous communities of New Mexico and Alaska. The fourth session featured a long group discussion.
“It was an honor to play a small role in this important event,” said Amy Schulz, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “I can’t wait to see the work continue. “
The NIEHS is here for the long haul
In closing remarks, the NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D., reiterated the institute’s commitment to advancing JE research and better understanding approaches that will help communities of color facing decades of health inequities. He noted that it is vital to work with others to resolve these complex and multisectoral issues.
“I task the EHD-EJ faculty with coming up with creative and innovative recommendations for me and the senior leadership of the NIEHS,” Woychik said. “I request that the EHD-EJ faculty consider partnerships with other NIH institutes and other federal agencies supporting work in this area.”