Environmental justice refers to the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures and incomes by identifying, advocating for and adopting laws, regulations and policies that reduce disparity in the exposure to toxics in the environment. For over ten years, The Public Health Outreach, Education and Collaborations Unit (PHOEC) staff has worked directly with communities to build knowledge and advocacy skills around environmental justice and health issues. Early efforts focused in West County communities, working with residents and environmental justice leaders on air quality and pollution, dioxin monitoring, and industrial safety.
In 2005, staff helped establish an East County Bay Point Latina Action Team. The team's first action was to help the largely Spanish-speaking community understand the Chemical Incident Warning System and work with responsible agencies to improve its effectiveness. Next, the team received training in Spanish on environmental justice principles, exposures to toxics and potential health impacts. After working in parntership with the University of San Francisco, they produced a report on toxics in Bay Point. The data from the report helped the team identify the issue of drinking water quality as their priority for local action. Currently the team is recruiting and training Gateway High School youth to become the next generation of environmental leaders.
The Pittsburg West Boulevard Familias Unidas neighborhood Action Team also received environmental justice and advocacy training, conducted a Photovoice project (PDF, 8pp.), and used the information to set priorities for improving neighborhood housing and establishing a new park at the local school. The Team planned a neighborhood event to celebrate and showcase its accomplishments.
PHOEC also worked with other programs in the health department to develop a CCHS Environmental Justice Framework (1.3mb PDF, 8pp.), to guide the department's future efforts to engage communities around these concerns.
Content provided by the Public Health Division of Contra Costa Health Services.