An organization can definitely make a difference. But when organizations work together, that can result in real change to advance public health.

“Our partnership and collective work is critical as we move the environmental health field forward, especially as we prioritize addressing health inequalities and injustices,” said Patrick N. Breysse, director of the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, at today’s APHA 2021 session on “Elevating Environmental Health through Partnerships.”

The session highlighted how two groups that APHA convenes, with CDC support, maximize their capacity to address environmental health issues.

The executive-level members of the National Environmental Health Partnership Council and the programmatic professionals of the Environmental Health & Equity Collaborative all work to increase awareness of environmental health issues, strengthen capacity among stakeholders and create healthy communities.

Both groups develop targeted messages that highlight the connection between healthy communities and healthy people to expand and sustain awareness, education, policies and practices related to environmental health.

During the session, Adrienne Hollis shared about the environmental justice technical assistance mini grants the council awarded to three community-based organizations this year. Maida Galvez spoke about the council’s “Value of Environmental Health Services” fact sheet, its “Ventilation Matters” sharables and school COVID-19 resources, and the “Lessons Learned on Effective Communication of Environmental Health Risk” report.

Vanessa VassallFor the collaborative, Sarah Goodwin talked about the group’s “Climate Effects and Environmental Health” fact sheet. Leslie Mitchell shared information about the “Environmental Health Competencies” and workforce questionnaire, as well as the inaugural IDEA EH, or Inclusion & Diversity for Equitable Advancement in Environmental Health, Award, presented to Black Millennials for Flint.

The award recognizes an organization whose environmental health leadership exemplifies justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Black Millennials for Flint is a grassroots, environmental justice and civil rights organization begun in 2016 to address the crisis of lead exposure in communities of color. Vanessa Vassall accepted the award during the session.

She noted the symbolic timing of the award, presented during National Lead Poisoning Awareness Week and the 30th anniversary of the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit that laid out the 17 principles of environmental justice we follow today.

“I am so excited for us to be recognized by APHA in this way because, what is most important to our small but mighty young organization in promoting environmental health and dismantling environmental racism, is the idea that non-traditional experts are the people who are going to be leading this charge, saving this planet, and taking care of each other.”

Join the 30th anniversary virtual celebration, “Environmental Justice: From the Grassroots to the White House,” on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. ET. 

Above, Vanessa Vassall of Black Millennials for Flint talks about receiving an environmental justice award and the work of the organization. Photo by Louise Dettman