A Health Justice Agenda for Local Governments to Address Environmental Health Inequities

ChangeLab staff publish article in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics

Law is a central force in creating the conditions for health inequities to flourish. Unjust laws and policies shape the physical, social, and economic environments that lead to unequal opportunities in areas such as education, employment, housing, and health care. Communities of color and people with low income often experience significantly poorer health than those with more political and economic power, and according to a new article published in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, “environmental policy is one place where these issues play out.”

In A Health Justice Agenda for Local Governments to Address Environmental Health Inequities, ChangeLab Solutions senior attorneys Gregory Miao and Katie Hannon Michel and managing director Tina Yuen state, “The disproportionate harm to the health and well-being of frontline communities from environmental injustices is well understood. For example, race has been identified as the single variable best able to explain the placement of toxic facilities in the U.S.”

The authors explain that federal environmental regulations, which set a foundation for environmental protections in the United States, have in fact contributed to creating many of the environmental injustices that people of color and low-income communities face. But while local governments have historically reinforced these regulatory failures, particularly in land use decisions, they are in fact uniquely positioned to address environmental health inequities through a health justice approach. The article lays out a health justice framework and explains that environmental health justice involves centering "partnerships between frontline communities and local governments to develop just solutions that fill gaps within the federal environmental regulatory system and anticipate and mitigate the compounding effects of environmental health inequities.”

Read the article.