Air Pollution and Its Effect on People of Color
Environmental health is an important public health issue within the U.S. health care delivery system. Exposure to environmental hazards can increase the risk of adverse health outcomes, particularly for vulnerable populations (Manisalidis, Stavropoulou, Stavropoulos, & Bezirtzoglou, 2020). One such issue is the disproportionate exposure to air pollution among communities of color.
Air pollution is a major environmental health concern in the U.S., particularly in urban areas, due to high industrial and vehicle-related emissions. Studies have revealed that communities of color are exposed to higher levels of air pollution than white communities (Rajagopalan, Al-Kindi, & Brook, 2018). In particular, African American communities are disproportionately exposed to higher levels of air pollution due to their concentration in urban areas with higher industrial and vehicle emissions (Di, Wang, Zanobetti, Wang, Koutrakis, Choirat, & Schwartz, 2017). This is further compounded by the fact that African American communities also tend to have higher levels of poverty, which can limit access to healthcare and other resources.
Evidence of this can be seen in a 2015 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, which found that African Americans are 79% more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods with unhealthy air quality. The EPA also found that African Americans were more likely to be exposed to industrial air toxics than whites in every state (Thurston, Kipen, Annesi-Maesano, Balmes, Brook, Cromar, & Brunekreef, 2017). Further research by the American Lung Association also revealed that “communities of color are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of air pollution than white communities.”
How Current Policies Address the Issue of Air Pollution
The issue of air pollution disproportionately affecting communities of color is being addressed by current policies at the federal and state levels. The Clean Air Act passed in 1970 and amended in 1990, is the primary legislation that regulates air pollution in the U.S. and sets standards on emissions of hazardous pollutants (Thurston et al., 2017). Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented several programs and initiatives to reduce air pollution, such as the Clean Air Markets Program, designed to reduce air pollution from power plants.
At the state level, many states have enacted legislation and policies to reduce air pollution and improve air quality. This includes laws that regulate emissions from industrial sources and vehicle emissions, as well as initiatives to support renewable energy sources. However, despite these efforts, studies have shown that communities of color are still disproportionately exposed to higher levels of air pollution.
To address this issue, I would propose changes to existing policies and programs better to target air pollution mitigation efforts in communities of color. This could include additional funding for air quality monitoring and enforcement in these communities and programs and incentives to promote renewable energy sources. Additionally, public education campaigns could be implemented to raise awareness of the health risks associated with air pollution in these communities.
To initiate policy change, engaging stakeholders and building support for proposed changes is important. This can be done through public outreach and education and engaging with policymakers and other influencers to ensure that proposed changes are heard. Additionally, research and data can be used to demonstrate the need for policy change and to provide evidence to support proposed changes.
Stakeholders Required to Initiate Policy Change
It is important to engage with several stakeholders to initiate policy change to address the disproportionate exposure of communities of color to air pollution. This includes both government officials and administrators, as well as other members of the community.
Government officials, such as legislators, are responsible for introducing and passing legislation on air pollution and its mitigation. They are also responsible for allocating public funds for air pollution mitigation efforts. Additionally, they can work with other stakeholders to ensure that proposed changes are heard and considered.
Administrators are also important stakeholders in policy change initiatives. They are responsible for implementing and enforcing existing policies and programs related to air pollution. They also play an important role in budgeting and funding to support initiatives to reduce air pollution in communities of color.
It is also important to engage with the community when initiating policy change. This includes engaging with community members and organizations to understand their needs and concerns and build support for proposed changes. Additionally, engaging with community members can provide important data and evidence to support proposed changes.
Impact on Health Care Delivery System
The issue of air pollution disproportionately affecting communities of color significantly impacts the U.S. healthcare delivery system. Exposure to air pollution can lead to a number of adverse health outcomes, such as respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and cancer (Manisalidis et al., 2020). This can lead to increased healthcare costs due to the need for more treatment and services.
Furthermore, air pollution can lead to higher rates of chronic illnesses, further straining the healthcare system. This is especially true for vulnerable populations, such as communities of color, who are disproportionately exposed to higher levels of air pollution and are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes.
This can also lead to increased healthcare access disparities within affected communities. This is because communities of color tend to have higher levels of poverty, which can limit access to healthcare and other resources. This can further compound the existing health disparities in these communities.
In conclusion, air pollution disproportionately affecting communities of color significantly impacts the U.S. healthcare delivery system. Exposure to air pollution can lead to increased healthcare costs due to the need for more treatment and services and increased rates of chronic illnesses. It can also lead to increased disparities in access to healthcare within these communities, further compounding the existing health disparities.
Di, Q., Wang, Y., Zanobetti, A., Wang, Y., Koutrakis, P., Choirat, C., … & Schwartz, J. D. (2017). Air pollution and mortality in the Medicare population. New England Journal of Medicine, 376(26), 2513-2522.
Manisalidis, I., Stavropoulou, E., Stavropoulos, A., & Bezirtzoglou, E. (2020). Environmental and health impacts of air pollution: a review. Frontiers in public health, 14.
Rajagopalan, S., Al-Kindi, S. G., & Brook, R. D. (2018). Air pollution and cardiovascular disease: JACC state-of-the-art review. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 72(17), 2054-2070.
Tessum, C. W., Apte, J. S., Goodkind, A. L., Muller, N. Z., Mullins, K. A., Paolella, D. A., … & Hill, J. D. (2019). Inequity in consumption of goods and services adds to racial–ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(13), 6001-6006.
Thurston, G. D., Kipen, H., Annesi-Maesano, I., Balmes, J., Brook, R. D., Cromar, K., … & Brunekreef, B. (2017). A joint ERS/ATS policy statement: what constitutes an adverse health effect of air pollution? An analytical framework. European Respiratory Journal, 49(1).