Federal government unveils national tool to measure environmental health impacts

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Federal health agencies have announced the release of a tool to measure the impact of environmental loads on health and health equity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Environmental Justice, announced on August 10 the release from Environmental Justice Index (EJI).

The EJI builds on existing Environmental Justice Indexes to provide a single score to local communities across the United States so that public health officials can identify and map areas most at risk for environmental impacts. environmental load health.

It is the first national, geography-focused tool designed to measure the cumulative impacts of environmental load through the lens of human health and health equity, the CDC said.

Cumulative impacts are the total harm caused to human health by the combination of ecological loads such as pollution and poor environmental conditions, pre-existing health problems and social factors.

The EJI was created to help public health officials and communities identify and map communities most at risk of experiencing the health impacts of environmental hazards.

Social factors such as poverty, race, ethnicity, and pre-existing health conditions can increase these impacts. The agency gave an example of how pre-existing health conditions can be made worse by environmental loads for two people with asthma. One person lives in a community with high air pollution, and the other does not.

Although both people have asthma, the person living in the community with high air pollution may be more likely to be hospitalized due to both factors.

“Too many communities across our country, especially low-income communities and communities of color, continue to bear the brunt of pollution,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Meeting the needs of these communities requires our attention, and we will use the Environmental Justice Index to do just that. »

The EJI can help public health officials, policymakers, and communities identify and respond to the unique environmental and social factors that affect a community’s health and well-being.

EJI databases and maps can be used for:

  • identify areas that may require additional attention or resources to improve health and health equity,
  • educate and inform the public about their community,
  • analyze unique local factors driving cumulative health impacts to inform policy and decision-making, and
  • set meaningful goals and measure progress toward environmental justice and health equity.

The CDC said environmental injustice could profoundly affect human health and well-being.

Therefore, addressing these adverse effects is critical to promoting health equity.

“Everyone deserves to live, learn and work in a healthy environment, and this new tool builds on existing environmental screening tools,” said Patrick Breysse, director of ATSDR and the National Center for CDC Environmental Health. “The Environmental Justice Index strengthens scientific evidence on the cumulative health impacts of environmental burden on communities across the country.”

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