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Seven communities receive grants to study projects that address health and climate change solutions

October 1, 2019   /   by Bevery Harp

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), in partnership with George Mason’s University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, has awarded grants to seven communities across the United States to study health, health equity and climate change solutions.

These communities—from Anchorage, Alaska, to Austin, Texas—have all developed and implemented projects that address the health impacts of climate change, while working to improve health equity. Grantees will assess and learn from their strategies for creating healthier, more resilient communities.

The projects selected represent a range of solutions, including the greening of public spaces, sustainable agriculture and housing weatherization.

“The diversity of these projects makes clear that there are a wide range of creative approaches to not only avoid the health harms from climate change, but also improve health and limit climate change,” said Alonzo L. Plough, the chief science officer and vice president of research-evaluation-learning at RWJF. “Communities across the United States are reducing their use of fossil fuels, building green infrastructure, and implementing more sustainable agricultural practices, and these climate solutions can help build a culture of health with immediate and long-term health benefits.”

The funded projects were selected specifically because they focus on health equity and climate change.

“While climate change can harm the health of anyone in America, some communities and groups of people are more likely than others to be harmed,” said Mark Mitchell, a public health and environmental health physician and a senior member of the center’s climate and health team. “Climate change exacerbates health disparities in the most vulnerable communities, including tribal communities, communities of color and low-income communities. That is why culturally relevant solutions that address health equity are critical to creating climate resilience.”

The seven selected projects are:

Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium—This Anchorage, Alaska, project will evaluate the impact on health outcomes of newly installed portable water/sanitation systems in 69 homes in four rural Alaska Native communities that are currently living without piped water/sanitation—and that are increasingly water-insecure as a result of climate change.

City of Austin, Texas—This project will evaluate the heat index and children’s level of physical activity and emotional well-being at various times during the year in tree-shaded and non-tree-shaded parks adjacent to three inner-city elementary schools.

Covenant Pathways—This project Vanderwagen, New Mexico, will evaluate regenerative farming practices of Navajo farmers for impact on soil life mass, soil life diversity and nutrient density of food produced on dryland farms.

Friends of Trees—This project will evaluate the health, social, economic and environmental endpoints of a tree planting program among Asian Americans in a low-income, multi-ethnic neighborhood in Portland, Oregon.

Organic Consumers Association—This Finland, Minnesota, project will evaluate and compare demographics, economics, environment and health in six regenerative and six conventional agricultural counties in six Midwestern states.

People United for Sustainable Housing and Partnership for the Public Good—This project will evaluate the impact of a community-based energy efficiency and weatherization program in Buffalo, New York, on household and community resilience, community development (e.g., local procurement and job creation) and health in city neighborhoods impacted by environmental degradation and unhealthy housing.

Swinomish Indian Tribal Community—This La Conner, Washington, project will evaluate the efficacy of I-BRACE, an “indigenized” version of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) Framework, which incorporates a model of indigenous values-based data collection, analysis and decision-making into a traditional public health model.

Since 2007, Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication has developed and applied social science insights to help society make informed decisions that will stabilize the earth’s life-sustaining climate and prevent further harm from climate change. In 2018, the center received a grant from RWJF to assist with the Health and Climate Solutions grant program. For more information, visit climatechangecommunication.org.