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A 20-Point Plan to Address Environmental Health Disparities

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The Environmental Justice Movement has made tremendous gains over the past four decades. Many of these milestones and accomplishments are chronicled in the 2002 Environmental Justice Timeline-Milestones 1964-2002   and more recently in The State of Environmental Justice Since Summit II -- 2002-2011 , a 2011 report that covers the most recent decade of the national movement. More than 100 studies now link racism to worse health. Similarly, some 200 environmental studies also have shown race and class disparities. One of the most important indicators of an individual's health is one's zip code or street address.

Eliminating environmental health and racial disparities will make us a much stronger nation as a whole.  Mounting evidence reveals that race and place matter and both impact health. As we as a nation grow smarter , greener, and more sustainable, we also need to grow healthier and more just to address longstanding disparities and inequalities that result from social determinants of health.  

In our new book, Environmental Health and Racial Equity in the United States: Building Environmentally Just, Sustainable and Livable Communities , published in April by the American Public Health Association Press (APHA),my colleagues and I offer a "20-point plan" for addressing environmental health disparities--a problem that disproportionately impacts low-income families and people of color. The strategies emerged from a review and synthesis of three decades of research, practice and public policy. They are offered in an effort to build, support and strengthen the work around environmental justice, health and racial equity into the future.

Strategy 1:  Support efforts of the larger Environmental Justice Movement and its member organizations to "re-invent" themselves, refine their message, and articulate a proactive vision.


Strategy 2:  Assist organizations build economically vibrant and socially just communities with emphasis on health and well-being of families and children.


Strategy 3:  Support programs and strategies that strengthen the capacity of organizations to analyze and solve place-focused problems at the national, regional, statewide, and local community level. 


Strategy 4:  Foster strong collaborations, alliances, and multigenerational networking. 


Strategy 5: Support youth and student work that intersects with a broad range of organizing areas across the broader environmental, health, and racial equity fields.


Strategy 6:  Invest in work that intersects environmental health and reproductive health.


Strategy 7:  Invest in long-term campaigns and programming.  

Strategy 8:  Broaden the base of foundations and government funding of environmental justice and health equity work that extends beyond funding "silos." 

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Robert D. Bullard is Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston. His most recent book is entitled "The Wrong Complexion (more...)

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