Environmental public health leaders — both in the U.S. and abroad — were honored for their outstanding achievements during APHA’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Expo this month.

APHA’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity presented its annual Excellence in Climate Leadership Awards, recognizing professionals and their organizations for work to combat climate change and mitigate its effects on health.Katherine and award-winner Elvis

“It’s inspiring to see the work being done by these leaders and their dedication to improving environmental health,” Katherine Catalano, MS, deputy director of the APHA center, told The Nation’s Health

Each year, the center presents awards to an APHA-affiliated public health association, an APHA member group and up to five individual APHA members for their climate leadership and for prioritizing climate, health and equity in their work.

In November, the New York State Public Health Association received the center’s Affiliate award for its work to improve the environment in communities across the Empire State. The New York Affiliate also received the Affiliate of the Year Award from APHA’s Council of Affiliates at APHA 2023.

Among its accomplishments this year, NYSPHA helped plant trees in downtown Albany to mitigate heat effects in the urban community, an initiative it plans to expand to other state cities next year. The association recently also helped create a community garden for recent refugees in cooperation with the Refugee Welcome Center. NYSPHA also works to address causes of climate change and its effects on human health in conjunction with Third Act, an organization that brings  older adults together to work on climate issues.

NYSPHA has also developed climate communication strategies, including a guide for students in grades K-12, a pre-recorded radio PSA and an online climate idea exchange forum.

The Environment Section’s Children’s Environmental Health Committee received the member group award for its work on climate education for youth. In partnership with APHA’s center, the committee launched the Climate and Health Youth Education Toolkit, a resource that public health professionals can use to give guest lectures on climate, health and equity to students in grades 9-12.APHA's Children's Environmental Committee

Individual awards were presented to:

• Leso Munala, PhD, MSW, and Elizabeth Allen, PhD, MPH, associate professors of public health at St. Catherine University, for their research on the influence of climate change on violence toward women and girls in Kenya;

• Jairo Garcia, PhD, MSc, a lecturer at Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of City and Regional Planning and executive director of Urban Climate Nexus, for his work in Georgia communities to help identify health and climate vulnerabilities when planning and developing urban spaces;

• Elvis Antonio Martinez Nataren, director and founder of INVER Rural Plant Innovation and an agro-industrial engineering student at the National University of El Salvador, for his commitment to advancing sustainable and equitable food systems by eliminating toxic chemicals in farming;

• Juan Aguilera MD, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at the University of Texas Health School of Public Health, for leadership in climate policy, research and education; and

• Kali Sullivan, a student at Tufts University School of Medicine, for her work to include the connection between climate change and health in medical school curricula.


Top: APHA's Katherine Catalano poses with Elvis Antonio Martinez Nataren, honored with the Excellence in Climate Leadership Award. Bottom: The Environment Section’s Children’s Environmental Health Committee, with Catalano, received the member group award for work on climate education for youth. Photos courtesy EZ Event Photography.