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.
In the Pacific Northwest, it’s easy to take environmental quality — our clean air, water, and soil — for granted. And with abundant natural and human resources, and a booming economy in Washington, doesn’t the future look bright?
But, let’s not forget that the science is clear: our climate is changing, and climate change threatens environmental quality and the health of people in Washington State. Climate change will affect some more than others. Race, income, language, location, and employment are some of the key factors that determine who are most vulnerable to the health effects of climate change.
With support from the Seattle Foundation, researchers at the University of Washington collaborated with Front and Centered to better identify the impacts of climate change on the health of communities of color. More than a literature review and data analysis, an effort was made to listen to communities across the state to understand and document their experiences and concerns about climate change and exposures to pollution that could result from a changing environment.
The result of this work is a new report: An Unfair Share. The report highlights the health risks faced by some of our most vulnerable workers, such as those employed in agriculture, construction, and fisheries. The report also hightlights how geography, and living in lowland areas, wildland/urban interfaces, or urban areas, each bears different risks with climate change.
The report identifies important knowledge gaps that can hopefully motivate new research that can lead to improved preparedness and resiliance in communities of color that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Read the full report here: bit.ly/unfairsharereport
and let’s work for climate justice!
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
The new Bitesome diet and nutrition tracking app was presented at the NIH mHealth Tech Showcase on June 4, 2018.
Part of the NIH MD2K initiative, the Tech Showcase highlighted recent advances in mHealth technologies and methods.
Our poster illustrated the architecture of our app, and usage of cloud services, and real-time databases specifically, for managing large numbers of users. We also document our use of food database API for nutritient content information.
Bitesome is currently available for use on the Android and iOS stores. Visit the Bitesome.mobi website to learn more about the app.
PDF of our poster Research Symposium Poster FINAL_small
As the NIEHS-funded research to establish a network of community-operated PM monitors in Imperial, CA comes to an end this year, efforts have been made to ensure the sustainability of the network.
The team was recognized by the CA State Assembly and Senate on April 26th for the work in Imperial. Also the work has influenced AB 617, a new rule which was approved by the state legislature in 2017, which requires air districts to implement community and fenceline air monitoring in communities that are classified as highly disadvantaged based on their environmental exposures and impacts as well as social disparities.
Whereas my research group at UW was involved in the development of the network, and managing QA/QC of the data from the monitors during the study, we have transitioned our knowledge of the monitoring to Comite Civico del Valle, who are currently sustaining the monitoring network and are in charge of the data.
In recent years, the use of low-cost sensors has grown considerably. Yet, the quality associated with these sensors is not fully known, or is highly variable between different makes/models of sensor, and depends greatly on how the sensors are operated. Would the establishment of performance targets potential improve the quality of low-cost air quality sensors for non-regulatory applications?
The European Union has made great strides recently to evaluate and form a working group to establish performance targets for air quality sensors.
The US EPA meeting, presentations highlighted recent studies that describe the (good) performance that has been found with current particle matter sensors and ozone sensors, which has allowed for them to be used in a variety of studies and use cases.
In my presentation on “apples to apples vs apples to oranges performance testing”, I first discussed the relative merits of controlled laboratory testing of sensors, which would allow for consistent testing conditions, easy third party verification of testing results, and potentially less uncertain, lower cost, and timely results, and “apples to apples” comparisons between sensor makes/models. Next, I discussed the importance of field testing in real-world applications that present numerous practical challanges for manufacturers, yet provides reassurance for users that sensors would likely work under real-world scenarios. These field tests would acknowleddge that different use cases in different field settings offer a challenges “apples to oranges” variety of conditions. If sensors are able to perform well under such challenging and varied testing conditions, they’d likely be useful for non-regulatory applications.
On the 3rd day, smaller panel deliberated the relative merits of sensor evaluation, performance targets, binary vs tiered certification, and other issues. We are working on a document that would provide summarize some of the perspectives we have on the subject.
Our group is finishing a new diet and nutrition-tracking app called Bitesome. Similar to the many diet-tracking apps that already exist for smartphones, the new app allows people to track the foods they each. But, somewhat differently, Bitesome tracks numerous factors that help public health and nutrition scientists better understand the context the underlies diet.
Bitesome utilizes sensors on the smartphones to better understand dietary context. This includes, GPS, motion, and camera data. Not only can researchers see when and where meals occur, but the nutritional content of each food item, query the neighborhood food environment, observe the physical activity that occurred before and after meals, etc.
Moreover, to better support science, researchers can access real-time Bitesome data from participants enrolled in research studies using a secure web portal. The website will support researchers by providing data reports for subjects in the study.
Bitesome is currently undergoing testing. The app will be available for iOS iPhones and Android smartphones in early 2018, starting with deployment in the ENACTS hypertension intervention study in Seattle — a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health, which is focused on minority health disparities.
The new Bitesome app builds upon previous smartphone app development in our research group, including past and ongoing studies that have used our CalFit smartphone app.
The National Institutes of Health’s NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) program has long been a champion for community-engaged environmental health research. Today’s webinar highlights the progress of two ongoing projects. PEPH’s description of the webinar is below:
Residents in communities across the country are often curious or concerned about the quality of the air they breathe and how it may affect their health or the health of family and friends. While many locations have air monitors, those monitors are sometimes not in communities of concern. With the advent of smaller, low-cost sensors, residents have become increasingly engaged in monitoring the air quality in their neighborhoods so as to understand and reduce potential health risks.
This webinar will highlight two community-based air monitoring projects. The first is a collaboration among the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (a partnership of the California Department of Public Health and the Public Health Institute); the Comite Civico Del Valle Inc.; the University of Washington; the University of California, Los Angeles; and George Washington University. The second is a partnership between the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Fairmount Greenway Task Force. The presenters will discuss their approaches, the benefits of those approaches, and future opportunities.
The Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Network: A Model for Community-Based Environmental Monitoring for Public Health Action
Paul English, Ph.D., California Department of Public Health
Michelle Wong, California Department of Public Health
Edmund Seto, Ph.D., University of Washington
Luis Olmedo, Comite Civico del Valle
Wheels on the Ground: Citizen Science and the Fairmount Greenway
Ann Backus, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Traci Brown, Ph.D., Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Michelle Moon, Fairmount Greenway Task Force
If interested, there should be a recording of the webinar on PEPH’s website: