In collaboration with Front and Centered, Washington State Department of Health, Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, today we launched the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map.
The map is an interactive tool that utliizes up-to-date statewide environmental datasets and population measures in order to rank communities with respect to cumulative environmental risk. The map provides new insights into health inequities at the neighborhood level to help shape state priorities and funding decisions.
Data on multiple environmental indicators are combined in the online tool to show a cumulative score for each of the 1,458 US Census tracts in the state. The tool is hosted by the state Department of Health through its Washington Tracking Network, and is available at: https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/wtn/WTNIBL/
Indicators were chosen based on input from community listening sessions that were held across the state. While data may not exist for all the indicators requested by attendees of the the listening sessions, the environmental health disparities map is meant to be dynamic, and evolve as new data become available.
The tool is meant to be solutions-oriented. Regardless of whether you’re a concerned resident, community leader and organizer, responsible government agency – having a better understanding of the environmental conditions in your community, and the people that are most affected by poor environmental quality – should lead to more informed priorities and focused strategies to improve environmental health.
While the map makes it easy for you to quickly compare the cumulative impact scores between different census tracts, I invite you to dig a bit deeper. Focus in on where you live, work, and play. Explore the various indicators that make up a score for your community. Examine how these indicators jive with what you know and your experience. And think about what needs to be done to be make environmental conditions better!
A report describing the methods and data used by the mapping tool can found here.
A policy brief for the tool can be found here.
Researchers at the University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences are working with Washington Department of Health’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, Front and Centered, and other organizations to create an environmental justice map for the state of Washington. The map aims to incorporate the best available statewide data on environmental pollution and population vulnerability at the community level. The work is informed by listening sessions held across te state aimed at understanding what pollution concerns exist for different communities, and how it affects the lives of those who live in these communities.
To learn more about the project visit the project website:
One of the main leads on the project, doctoral student, Esther Min is currently seeking input on the development of the first draft of this map.
As the project evolves, I’ll post additional articles documenting the challenges and opportunities we’ve faced in developing the EJ map.
Over the last year, I have been hearing from residents of the Beacon Hill community in Seattle, about noise issues. Beacon Hill is surrounded by freeways and major thoroughfares, and has airplane traffic at SeaTac flying overhead. The community is struggling to address the noise pollution.
In the Summer of 2017, with considerable community support and encouragement, we applied for, but were unsuccessful in obtaining funding from the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority Nimble Fund. This was very disappointing news for the residents.
Although discouraged by the results of the PHPDA proposal, we wrote an announcement to the community, which was distributed via social media in the Fall of 2017. In the announcment, we asked if people with specific skills would be willing to donate their own time to become “community scientists” to conduct a noise assessment study. Serious about forming an effective research team, we recruited residents with particular skills, including leadership, organizing, project management, field work, data analysis, and communication. We formed a small group in the Winter of 2017-18, and using one noise monitor that I donated to the group, we started the Beacon Hill Noise Study.
“Citizen science” has been an effective strategy for gathering environmental data for research. Whereas these efforts are usually structured so that lay people (citizen scientists) help traditional academic scientists collect data, our approach towards “community science” emphasizes the role of community members as scientists, with only academics providing advice.
The recent community microgrant from the Verity Credit Union (with Beacon Hill Merchants Association as our fiscal sponsor) allowed us to purchase additional monitors for the study. We also recently received a grant from the US EPA (through the community-based organization El Centro de la Raza), which has allowed us to hire two part-time student interns from the University of Washington this Summer 2018 to help residents collect noise measurements. Both our interns are undergraduate students studying in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.
As a resident-led study without its own organization, we have been fortunate to be able to work with other established community organizations to raise funds. Moreover, because of tremendous volunteer effort, the costs associated with collecting noise measurements has been quite modest. A decent noise monitor and calibrator can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. With the modest funding we have raised thus far, we have collected nearly 300 MB of noise data with 2 noise monitors.
Our goal is collect 24-hour noise measurements at outdoor locations throughout Beacon Hill. So far we have approximately 60 residents who have signed up, with interest in having noise measurements collected at their home.
As we continue to collect data and compute noise summary measures, such as 24-hour LEQ, LDN, and LDEN dBA levels, we intend to make these results publically available via an open access license. Our initial goals are modest, as we simply want to collect sufficient data to have a meaningul discussion about appropriate next steps for the study. However, as we progress, we hope that the data may help connect residents with other nosie pollution stakeholders to move towards collective action to educate and build awareness, conduct futher research, and identify strategies for reducing noise pollution.
For more information about the project, contact Dr. Roseanne Lorenzana at firstname.lastname@example.org