As part of our weeklong recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week, today we will talk about how the environment in which we live impacts our mental health. In particular, we’ll focus on the most pressing environmental crisis confronting California – the historic drought we’ve experienced over the past few years.
A couple weeks ago, The Fresno Bee published a terrific feature on how the drought is impacting mental health in East Porterville, an unincorporated community in Tulare County. The article does a great job of highlighting some of the health repercussions of the drought in a community of roughly 7,500 residents, three-quarters of whom are Latino. The main thrust of the piece, however, is about the mental health impact of the drought on this community.
“In a town whose problems already include air pollution, water contamination and poverty, the drought has spurred a growing health crisis, worsening respiratory conditions and burdening those with other illnesses.
It gets worse.
… In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies published a guide about protecting public health during a drought. The guide refers to studies in Australia and India that showed elevated levels of suicide among farmworkers living in rural areas affected by severe and extended droughts.
Among those most at risk for drought-related health effects, it says, are “people living in rural or remote areas who depend on water from private wells and small or poorly maintained municipal systems, the quality of which is more susceptible to environmental changes.”
At CPEHN, we recognize that environmental conditions have a tremendous impact on our health. In our report, The Landscape of Opportunity: Cultivating Health Equity in California, we discussed how those living in areas with worse air quality are more likely to suffer from asthma and other chronic health conditions. We also showed that in California, the majority of people living in areas with adverse environmental conditions are from communities of color.
However, according to an article published this week by California Healthline, the study used an older version of a state environmental health tool (CalEnviroScreen). As a result, the inequities could actually be even starker than the report indicated. In the article, CPEHN Executive Director Sarah de Guia discussed the differences between CalEnviroScreen 1.1 and the 2.0 version and how the new version should yield more detailed results:
Ever wonder what Californians are getting out of the more than $1 billion invested in energy-saving programs, buildings codes, and appliance standards every year? A new NRDC and Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) report contains the answer - a lot!
Ten years ago this weekend, the world watched as Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and laid bare the inequities that are deeply ingrained in American society. Perhaps no single event has ever highlighted the intersection between race, poverty, climate, and health as clearly as the devastation in New Orleans.
Katrina put a spotlight on an uncomfortable truth: that millions of people in this country live in abject poverty and that communities of color are far more likely to experience the consequences of the country’s entrenched inequality. In 2005, nearly 40 million Americans (roughly 1 in every 7) lived in poverty. A decade later, there has been hardly any change in the nation’s poverty rate. In Louisiana, 34% of Blacks live in poverty compared to 10% of Whites. High poverty rates have made housing less affordable, and as a result, low-income populations and communities of color often live in areas of concentrated poverty in substandard housing with the constant threat of eviction. Even though Katrina took place nearly 2,000 miles away from California, the underlying social factors that exacerbated the destruction experienced by low-income communities of color – particularly African Americans – are evident here and throughout the country.
This originally appeared in an email blast from Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP).
RAMP and the California School-Based Health Alliance are pleased to announce the development of a new tool — the Asthma Environmental Intervention Guide for School-Based Health Centers. The purpose of this guide is to support school-based health center (SBHC) staff in leading or supporting evidence-based strategies and promising practices to reduce exposure to environmental asthma triggers. Although there is a broad array of evidence-based interventions to address asthma triggers, many people with asthma continue to be exposed to the factors that make their asthma worse. SBHCs are uniquely positioned to address this gap in order to help children breathe easier. While many SBHCs across the country are already playing a key role in helping students manage their asthma by providing quality clinical care and education there is an opportunity for SBHCs to also be leaders in managing the environmental factors that make asthma worse.
The guide describes the relationship between asthma and a number of environmental asthma triggers and shares scientific evidence that SBHC staff can cite when educating others on the need to address environmental asthma triggers. This is followed by five sections each tackling a strategy, or broad category of intervention, that SBHC staff could lead or support. They include:
This post originally appeared on TransForm's blog, TransForum.
Across the state, a dozen different agencies are doling out millions of cap-and-trade dollars to hundreds of communities. But who’s counting?
Last week, we launched ClimateBenefitsCA.org, a new website that lets you see what projects California’s cap-and-trade program is funding, and how these investments are making our state’s communities more sustainable, healthy, and fair.
Climate Benefits for California is a searchable online map that shows how California’s climate program is improving people’s lives. You can use the map to see what projects are funded; filter them by geography, program, or year; and add up the benefits.
With the help of the data wizards at GreenInfo Network and a team of collaborators, we’ve collected the grant information released by multiple state agencies and transformed it into a one-stop shop. Here you can find, view, and assess the impacts of investments funded through the California Climate Investments Program (CCIP, formerly the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund or GGRF).
The map also tells the stories of the people and communities who are turning these investments into solutions to our state’s most pressing environmental, social, and economic issues.
Ground-level ozone, which is formed from car and power plant emissions and is a primary component of smog, poses considerable health risks for all, but especially for children. At the start of the new century, in 2001, the six California counties with the most high-ozone days were all located in the Central Valley and in Southern California. More than a decade later, while the total number of such days is down by 64% across California, the same six counties continue to suffer from the worst air quality (by that measure) in the Golden State, according to the most recent data available on kidsdata.org (see map at right).
In 2013, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Tulare counties experienced more than 40 days with ozone levels above the U.S. regulatory standard. San Bernardino County, however, had 93 high ozone days, nearly eight times the statewide average of 12 days per year.
It’s been exciting in Sacramento recently, as California, already a leader, keeps pushing ahead to fight climate change:
Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order requiring the state to cut climate pollutants by 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030. This makes sure that the state is on track to make the larger cuts required by AB 32, of 80% by 2050.
Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León is leading a package of climate legislation to cut petroleum use in half and codify the state’s greenhouse-gas reduction targets.
Can Caltrans keep up?
As the executive and legislative branches race ahead, the state’s agencies need to keep up. To actually deliver on these policies, the state has to change how it chooses to invest in transportation, moving toward climate-friendly public transit, biking, and walking.
But is the state’s spending actually supporting its goals? At Caltrans, at least on one plan, the answer may be “nope.”
The Interregional Plan goes the wrong way
ClimatePlan partners have been working on several state transportation funding plans and policies. One, we are dismayed to report, seems totally stuck.
The American Lung Association State of the Air 2015 report, released last week, showed that while progress has been made, California continues to have some of the worst air pollution in the country. In fact, 28 million Californians live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels can make the air unhealthy to breathe. (Click on the map to enlarge.)
Covering air pollution data from 2011-2013, State of the Air 2015 shows that California cities still dominate lists for the most polluted areas in the nation for ozone (smog) as well as short-term and annual particle pollution (soot). Several cities had both higher year round averages and unhealthy days on average of particle pollution driven largely by drought weather conditions.
Specifically, of the top ten cities in the nation with the worst air pollution, California metropolitan areas rank as follows:
Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown ensured that California would remain at the forefront of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in response to the growing threat of climate change. In an executive order, Brown stated that the state must cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This interim target will help meet the goal of cutting emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, as established by Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“In North America, California is now setting the pace, and we're very serious about it,” Brown told a crowd of hundreds at a climate change conference in Los Angeles. “We're going to take whatever steps are needed to get the job done, because our future depends on it.”
“Studies have shown that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to live in areas with high exposure to pollutants, which can lead to higher levels of asthma and other respiratory conditions as well as cardiovascular events, low birth weight, and premature deaths.”
In the same report we discussed improving air quality as a vital strategy to address some of the key environmental determinants of health. We stressed that California should remain a leader in developing standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.