Health Equity Tip: Work on the Shared Root Causes of Health Inequities and Climate Injustice

Image of earth with plants on a protest sign which reads “Climate Justice is Public Health Work.” On the sides of images are other protest signs and signage depicting the recycle logo, a heart, and a scale.
Illustration by Raina Wellman

Health departments who are working with communities fighting for their health and wellbeing must confront those shared root causes.

Where to start:

First, look at the history of your jurisdiction to understand how you arrived at the current climate change and health inequities.

  • What is the jurisdiction’s history of stolen land from Indigenous, Japanese, and Black farmers or landowners? Who owns that land now? Who works on that land now? What forms of government subsidies or loans enabled Whites to own land or maintain solvency as an agricultural grower?
  • What is the history of redlining, segregation, White flight, urban disinvestment, and urban renewal that produced current inequities in living conditions, resources, or exposures that put BIPOC communities at greater risk of health and climate change inequities (e.g., urban heat islands, fewer trees and parks, more air pollution, food apartheid, lack of drinking water, good schools and jobs, public transportation)?

Next, learn about the various forums of public policy and decision-making where the field of public health can use their power to advance climate justice and health equity.

  • If your jurisdiction is involved in Climate Action Planning, Climate Adaptation or Resilience Planning, General Planning, transportation planning, or Emergency Planning, it’s critical that public health is at the table centering those who are most impacted!
  • If your colleagues in labor, workforce, business, or community development are working to address income and wealth inequities, public health should be there to ensure that they also address climate and health inequities at the center. We can provide the public health evidence, provide research, voice, and authority to these planning processes, ensuring that people we know are facing the worst health inequities are also prioritized in climate change planning.

One example:

How power dynamics, policies, and conditions put farmworkers at increased risk of climate change

Where health departments can play a role:

Taking action with farmworker power building organizations to protect health

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