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Fall 2022 Pulse of Public Health

Members of the SPH community weigh in

Many public health professionals point to climate change as one of the largest public health threats of our times. How do we prepare communities to address this crisis in a way that advances environmental justice?

Elena Grossman photo.

There are two key factors to help prepare communities for climate change that also advances environmental justice. First, we
need to increase knowledge and awareness among civic leaders, community members, and public health professionals about climate change, its public health threats, and its disproportionate impact on environmental justice communities. Second, we need to appropriately invest in environmental justice communities to increase their resiliency from a climate change adaptation and mitigation perspective. This includes green, gray, social, and economic infrastructure. We know where the most susceptible communities are, we need to start investing in them.

Elena Grossman, MPH '11  |  Program Manager, EOHS
Cynthia Klein-Banai photo.

In order to prepare communities for climate change we need to understand the environmental determinants of health, the existing conditions in the community and, especially, the concerns of the community. The solutions need to be co-created by bringing our public health expertise, data, and best practices, while incorporating the lived experience of the community and their knowledge of what will work for them to address their concerns.

Cynthia Klein-Banai, PhD '10  |  UIC Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of Sustainability
Megan Kowalcyk photo.

As public health professionals and researchers we are uniquely situated to improve the lives of the communities most vulnerable
to the impacts of climate change. Community-based, vulnerability focused, and intervention driven research will be key as we aid communities in allocating limited resources to areas that will have the biggest impacts. In order to do this, researchers need to involve community stakeholders and understand that there is no one size fits all approach.

Megan Kowalyck  |  PhD in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences student
Cynthia Medina photo.

The climate crisis is especially detrimental to vulnerable communities that have been the subject of too many social injustices throughout history. As a public research university with unlimited resources and connections, it is our obligation to actively listen to community needs and develop ways we can support that are non-extractive to the community and the environment. Environmental justice organizations have been at the forefront in creating innovative climate solutions for decades. As we acknowledge this, we need to collaboratively develop solutions in an equitable way to advance environmental justice.

Cynthia Medina  |  MPH in Community Health Sciences student