Health and Social Impacts of Climate Change across the Life Course
The environmental justice movement seeks to critically examine the climate change crisis through a health equity lens. This involves calling attention to the urgent need to dismantle environmental policies that have negatively impacted marginalized populations, including low-income individuals and communities of color.
The connection between health disparities and environmental injustices is clear: a significant number of the downstream health disparities we see today are a direct result of disproportionate exposures to upstream environmental factors, including extreme heat, air pollution, lead exposure, and water contamination.
Environmental injustices are considered a byproduct of systematic racism and contribute to a multitude of health disparities across the life course, including respiratory illnesses such as asthma, lead poisoning-associated disorders, and cancers; they also exacerbate underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Addressing environmental injustices is key to helping move the needle on health disparities and improving the social and economic well-being of marginalized communities in the United States.
As described in a recent Weitzman Institute Health Affairs Forefront publication, FQHCs have an essential role in addressing environmental justice as part of their mission to promote the health and well-being of the most vulnerable members of society.