Equity and Environmental Health
My service term at the Health Department Air Quality program has allowed me to learn more about environmental health and environmental justice. Environmental health refers to the relationship between external factors, such as the health and safety of your community and the health of the natural surrounding environment, and individual health. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Achieving environmental justice will help contribute to achieving health equity. An image presented by a speaker giving a presentation on environmental justice that helped me understand equality versus equity was one of three people of differing heights standing at a fence watching a sports game happening behind the fence. In one circumstance, the three people are standing on boxes that are the same height. The tallest person can view the game; the next tallest person has a harder time viewing the game; and the shortest person can’t view the game at all. This scenario represents equality, being given the same supports in order to access a certain resource. In another circumstance, the shortest individual is given the tallest stack of boxes, the second tallest individual given the second tallest stack, and the tallest individual is given the shortest stack of boxes. In this scenario, all three of the individuals’ eyes are now at the same height so they can all see over the fence and watch the game. This represents equity – people being given the unique and necessary supports to allow everyone to have equal access to resources. During my service term, I have also had the privilege of playing a role in combating this pandemic by serving at COVID-19 vaccination sites working to register senior adults.