A tireless advocate and enthusiastic nonprofit partner, Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis maintains a strong pulse on the correlation between public health and environmental exposures. As this week’s Insider, she shares insight on positive progress in the field and constructive solutions on how to apply “lessons learned” to solve pervasive problems.
What is a current issue related to the work of Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE) where you see positive progress? What are some “lessons learned” that can be applied to addressing other, more intractable issues?
We are seeing an emergence of interest, curiosity and knowledge-seeking in our core area of focus – environmental exposures that impact public health. There is engagement from the general public for community-oriented action, advocacy and learning. That can be applied to a whole host of issues such as residents concerned about lead in drinking water, schools and child care providers testing (and remediating) for environmental hazards such as lead and radon, and new or expectant parents seeking information and resources from us regarding how to make their home a healthier and safer place for their families. With WHE’s assistance, we now have nearly a dozen early learning centers endorsed as an Eco-Healthy Child Care® and eight schools recognized in the Healthy Schools Recognition Program during the 2016-2017 school year.
The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” often resonates with our staff and the communities we engage. It is a community-based approach to solving regional issues. For instance, let’s focus on a child with asthma. It requires the involvement and input of parents, possibly a caregiver, the child’s medical provider, the school or early learning center they attend, an organization with resources and education such as WHE, and if there are significant outdoor contributing factors, the facility representative, those responsible for inspecting and permitting these facilities, and often elected officials. Once we have a truly community-based approach to addressing environmental exposures, once community members are informed and engaged, once we make public health the first priority in daily decision-making, then we all can make a difference and positive impact on the health of our communities and the region.