'Clean air' is a concept that resonates with Akeelia Adams-Smith, a mother of two living in the north side of St. Louis, MO. She and her children suffer from asthma and symptoms that are often triggered by poor air quality. Akeelia has started following recommendations to ensure that her family has healthy air quality within their living space, and is now taking action to reduce outdoor pollution.
Akeelia is one of many concerned African American parents in her community. According to a study by the St. Louis Regional Health Commission, black children in north St. Louis are approximately seven times more likely to visit the emergency room for asthma than white children.
Akeelia and others shared their stories during the Clean Air Health Fair on April 27 to raise awareness around the issue of air quality. The event was hosted by Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis with support from the National Climate Action Plan, and the Heartland Regional Health Equity Council under the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. The fair, which was attended by public officials, advocacy groups, academics and local faith leaders, was designed to raise awareness about climate change and how it will impact the health of St. Louis residents, with special attention to air quality.
Speakers included EPA's Region 7 Administrator, Karl Brooks, who highlighted the link between the changing climate and poor environmental conditions, such as reduced air quality. Spurred by the commitment that President Obama made during his second inauguration to minimize the health impacts of climate change, Mr. Brooks emphasized a renewed commitment by the EPA and other federal agencies.
Other speakers included Rev. Earl Nance Jr. of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. Roger Lewis of St. Louis University, St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman and Akeelia Adams-Smith. Whether from a faith-based organization, academia, public service or the community, the speakers united under the common goal of promoting scientific literacy and minimizing the impacts of climate change and poor air quality.
The remarks of each speaker were extremely encouraging, conveying broad and scientifically complex topics in a way that was relevant to the specific needs of the community. Moreover, the active engagement of the attendees with speakers and organizers represented the type of dialogue that gathers people from all walks of life to address the multi-faceted causes of health disparities.
Several organizations and partnerships committed to addressing climate change and asthma in the St. Louis area participated in the event. Through handouts, trivia and conversations, community members and church attendees received facts on climate change and air quality. More importantly, they received resources and information on steps they can take to minimize their energy consumption and protect their health and the health of their loved ones. Among the resources provided were mattress covers, water bottles, guidelines for home weatherization, example emergency plans for extreme heat and weather events, and instructions on checking air quality and minimizing asthma triggers.
The organizations providing helpful information at the fair included:
Get involved with environmental awareness initiatives in your community! Find out more about this issue on the Healthy People 2020 website or the Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Justice webpage.
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Tyler White is a recent MPH graduate of St. Louis University's School of Public Health with a concentration in environmental health. This summer Tyler is working at the Office of Minority Health as a research fellow for the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities.