CDC: Environmental Justice Is ‘Access to Healthy Homes, Healthy Food, Transportation'

August 20, 2013 - 4:21 PM

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Fresh cherry tomatoes are stored in a barn at Denison Farm on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in Schaghticoke, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

(CNSNews.com) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a video on its website to provide the definition of environmental justice, specifically when it comes to communities.

“The health of a community suffers when people don’t have access to healthy homes, healthy food, transportation, fresh air and safe neighborhoods,” the narrator stated in the video.

She is Dr. LaToria Whitehead, who works in CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch.

“I’m also an environmental justice specialist,” Whitehead said.

The video opened with a closed grocery store as a backdrop, with Whitehead informing viewers that the part of Atlanta where the video was filmed has double the rate of poverty as the national average and that 28 percent of residents don’t have their own transportation.

“When the supermarket behind me closed it had a big impact on the community’s ability to get healthy food,” Whitehead said. “This is one example about how environmental justice doesn’t live here.”

“Environmental Justice. What does it mean?” the headline on the video read.

“Environmental justice means that everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment regardless of race, income, age, gender or nationality,” Whitehead said.

“Basically environmental justice means that no one’s health or quality of life should suffer because of the environment that they live in,” Whitehead added. “Most importantly, effective community members’ voices are heard, and they’re involved throughout those processes.

“You can see by looking around this neighborhood that the homes aren’t healthy,” Whitehead said after a slide show of boarded up houses and businesses. “People don’t have access to healthy food, and some parts of the neighborhood don’t even have sidewalks.

“The health of a community suffers when people don’t have access to healthy homes, healthy food, transportation, fresh air and safe neighborhoods,” Whitehead said.

The page also featured “Michelle’s Story,” a narrative about a woman and her five-year-old child.

“Our home has too much dust,” Michelle said. “The paint is chipping off the walls, and we live near a chemical plant.

“More often than not we have to deal with an awful smell inside our home,” Michelle said.

“The smell comes from the plant,” Michelle said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to breathe, especially for my five-year-old, who has developed a severe case of asthma.

“We never know when we might have to leave our home. It can be really scary,” Michelle said.

Michelle said the stores in her neighborhood lack fruits and vegetables, in contrast to other neighborhoods.

“When we visit the other side of town, they have a lot more access to grocery stores with fresh foods,” Michelle said. “Their higher-income neighborhood seems to have a healthy environment.

“Well, we might not have a lot of money, but we deserve to live in a healthy environment too,” Michelle added.

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