February, Black History Month, is known for the remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. As such, it is the perfect month to convene health care professionals and environmentalists to discuss public health disparities from pollution in low income and communities of color. On February 1, SACE, the Atlanta Black Nurses Association (ABNA) and the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) kicked off Black History Month with a symposium focused on disproportionate environmental impacts and how the production and consumption of energy affects communities of color.
This event, in partnership with the Community Engagement/Outreach Core, Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research at Georgia State, was held at the Georgia State University’s Institute of Public Health. Presentations spanned over a range of topics including air pollution impacts to young children, water quality issues in Georgia, clean construction in hospital sustainability plans, and how sustainable development can lead to the overall health and wellness of a community.
Based on research by Dr. Robert Bullard of Clark Atlanta University, blacks in 19 states and Latinos in 12 states are two times more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where air pollution poses the greatest health risks. Speakers addressed these issues and explained the array of health conditions that are directly associated with pollution in minority communities.
MaKara Rumley, an attorney with GreenLaw, presented on their recent report, Patterns of Pollution, to confirm this trend. The report identifies eight types of air, water, and land pollution and compares them with demographic data for people living in a 14-county region in metro-Atlanta. To no surprise, research finds that low income and communities of color are more likely to live near and be disproportionately impacted by pollution than others.
Dr. Yolanda Whyte, a local pediatrician and SACE volunteer, spoke powerfully about the importance of health care professionals to become health care advocates to help build healthier communities.
This was the first time that SACE, ABNA and WAWA convened a group of this kind to discuss energy and environmental health disparities in minority communities and it won’t be the last. We look forward to continuing the dialogue and implementing strategies to ensure all communities are clean, safe and healthy.
“Every American deserves to have a clean, safe and healthy environment. Today, we understand better than ever before that our health is not only dependent on what happens in the doctor’s office but is determined by the air we breathe, the water we drink and the communities we call home.” – HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius