Popular map to explore environmental health disparities and vulnerabilities in Washington gets an update

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Press Releases | Politics and Government | Population health | Public health

August 2, 2022

A screenshot of Washington’s environmental health disparities map when filtered for environmental health disparities.

Since its launch in 2019, Washington State Environmental Health Disparities Map has been used to help policymakers and government agencies engage with overburdened communities to clean up contamination, improve buildings and power grids, plant trees, and many other projects.

Using a complex data matrix, this open-access, interactive map ranks Washington’s nearly 1,500 U.S. census tracts according to health risks from environmental degradation and economic and health disparities. It acts as a guide for state agencies and the legislature to improve environmental and economic justice and is included in the Healthy Environments for All (HEAL) Act.

Today, the University of Washington, one of the original partners in creating the map, is helping the Department of Health launch a new version, updating data and methodology for ranking vulnerable areas. by the card. The newly updated map went live on July 28.

More information

Learn more about the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map Project at the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health website.

“The initial request for this mapping tool came from community members who felt that researchers and government programs were looking at air or water quality, treating them separately. But communities experience them together, and so they wanted to know if there was a better tool that could communicate the cumulative impact of pollution,” said Esther Mina UW researcher who led the creation of the original map as well as its updated data and methods.

It was in the fall of 2016. At that time, Front and centera coalition of environmental justice organizations rooted in communities of color, several state agencies, and the UW Department of Environmental Sciences and Occupational Health formed a working group which eventually published the first version of the map.

“It not only pulls together the damage done to communities by pollution through an environmental health lens, but also shows the vulnerability of a community – which makes some communities less resilient to environmental degradation,” said Min, clinical assistant professor. of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the UW School of Public Health. “The map does a really good job of framing that and communicating that.”

Map users can create data visualizations to see environmental health risks and compare census tracts based on dozens of factors, such as existing pollution levels including ozone concentration, PM2.5, diesel emissions, lead hazards in homes, proximity to busy roads, industrial or waste processing facilities and Superfund sites. Also included are socio-economic factors such as English proficiency, education levels, housing affordability and employment statistics, birth weight and prevalence of cardiovascular disease.

How the Environmental Health Disparities Map Creates Its Risk Ranking of Washington’s Nearly 1,500 U.S. Census Tracks.

“The Environmental Health Disparities Map is our most popular data product, used by organizations – large and small – across the state,” said Jennifer Sabel, head of the Washington Tracking Network, which publishes the map. . “With this release, data will be updated to reflect changes that have occurred since the map was launched. This will lead to better-informed decisions that support health and environmental equity in our state.

According to the Ministry of Health, the map has already been used as a guide by state agencies, such as the departments of ecology, commerce, and natural resources, when awarding grants or funding projects to improve health and the environment in an equitable manner. Examples include grants to investigate and clean up contaminated sites, funding for waste management projects, clean energy building programs and solar and electric grid upgrades, as well as urban and community forestry programs.

Also, Min said, “Community groups are using the map for their own advocacy, saying ‘Look, our communities are not only fighting air pollution, but here are all the other things we really need to work on. to eliminate disparities. ‘”

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For more information, contact Min at [email protected] Contact the Washington Department of Health at [email protected]

Tag(s): Department of Environmental Sciences and Occupational Health • Esther Min • School of Public Health


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