Environmental health sciences education - A tool for achieving environmental equity and protecting children

Luz Claudio, Teresa Torres, Eva Sanjurjo, Lloyd R. Sherman, Philip J. Landrigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Children are highly susceptible to deleterious effects of environmental toxins. Those who live in underserved communities may be particularly at risk because environmental pollution has been found to be disproportionately distributed among communities. Mounting evidence suggests that asthma rates are rising and that this disease can be caused or aggravated by air pollution. Although ambient air quality has generally improved, these improvements have not reached minority communities in equal proportions. This and other data has fueled the concept of environmental justice or environmental equity, which has led to community activism and government actions. One possible example of environmental inequity and its consequences is the Hunt's Point community, in the South Bronx, New York. This community experiences a high pollution burden with the siting of facilities that emit hazardous wastes into the air. Our approach to this problem has been the formation of mechanisms for bidirectional communication between community residents, government entities, and academic institutions such as Mount Sinai Medical Center. As a result of this experience, we believe that the key to achieving environmental health, especially in communities of color where many children are at risk, is to empower residents to take charge of their environment by providing relevant educational opportunities. Strategies for environmental health education include multitiered training approaches that include community residents, parent education, direct children education, and community education through professional counselors and train-the-trainer approaches. We propose that academic researchers must use community residents not just as subjects of our studies, but to increase our mutual understanding of environmental health, resulting in active participation of community members in research design, data collection, analysis, and dissemination of results in order to make intervention strategies more effective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-855
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Volume106
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1998

Keywords

  • Children's health
  • Community education
  • Community outreach
  • Environmental health sciences
  • Minority populations

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