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Thursday, February 9, 2023

CDC creates tool to measure impact of environmental burdens

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created an online, place-based tool designed to help measure the impacts of environmental burdens with a focus on environmental justice for marginalized communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards.

The Environmental Justice Index is a first-of-its-kind tool and will help public health officials identify areas at risk for health impacts and prioritize action for communities most at need, according to the CDC.

The index is available at atsdr.cdc.gov.

Conditions in the environments where people are born, live, work and worship affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes. Access to health care, education and safe housing can determine a person’s health outcome and contribute to health disparities. Systemic racism, redlining and dilapidated housing leads to disproportionate environmental hazards such as higher rates of asthma, lead poisoning, poor mental health and air pollution.

“Too many communities across our nation, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, continue to bear the brunt of pollution,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release. “Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention and we will use the Environmental Justice Index to do just that.”

The index delivers a single score to each community using federal data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and the CDC. The index also scores communities on social vulnerability, environmental burden and health vulnerability.

The index shows Marion County has a high environmental burden risk, with high prevalence of asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes and poor mental health.

Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

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