​Environmental Health Literacy – Key to Unlocking a Safer Future (Part 2)

October 27th, 2016 | Viewpoint


How do we start to build environmental health literacy

For two decades JSI environmental health capacity-building services have weaved basic literacy with both health and environmental literacy to reduce disparities.  Projects have focused on:

  • Creating environmental health lessons for adult learners in ABE/ESOL classrooms
  • Launching community-based, participatory environmental health research
  • Advancing promotores and other community health worker initiatives
  • Engaging immigrant businesses and religious organizations
  • Supporting peer-led environmental health promotion at schools and workplaces

Advancing environmental health literacy is not a top-down process from expert to resident. As a public health practitioner, the most valuable lessons I nurture have come from the expertise and leadership of those who are disproportionately affected by societal inequities.

One project that was critical to my own learning in this area was initiated by Alternatives for Community and Environment. The organization wanted to create an air quality and environmental justice training for youth in their Roxbury Environmental Empowerment project. With new information and awareness, youth in Boston took off. They learned to identify and share with peers, family, and community residents the array of information on environmental factors in home, school, and workplace environments that can impact health. They created innovative strategies as they developed their leadership skills to advocate for environmental justice (EJ). Among their achievements – annual EJ summits that now engage over 200 youth, anti-idling laws coupled with transportation justice that reduce air pollution, and youth-led environmental health projects in schools across Boston spreading through New England.

This is but one of many examples of projects where residents have used environmental health literacy to unlock innovative, effective solutions.

It’s not hard to promote environmental health literacy if one starts by providing tools that build upon the leadership of residents. Enjoy the rewarding journeys ahead.

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