Session: Healthy People, Healthy Environments: Building Connections across Grand Challenges (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

202 Healthy People, Healthy Environments: Building Connections across Grand Challenges

Saturday, January 18, 2020: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Marquis BR Salon 7, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Sustainable Development, Urbanization, and Environmental Justice (SDU&E)
Shanondora Billiot, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Susan Kemp, PhD, , Lawrence Palinkas, PhD, University of Southern California, Michael Spencer, PhD, University of Washington and Karina Walters, PhD, University of Washington
The health of the planet and the health of populations are inextricably linked. The most recent IPCC report (2018) predicts serious direct risks to human health and social well-being from climate change, as well as increases in climate-related stressors such as undernutrition, heat or ozone related morbidity and mortality, food and water insecurity and poverty-related health risks. Furthermore, climate change, escalating urbanization, and environmental degradation interact with and exacerbate existing racial, economic, and social inequities, with profound implications for the health and well-being of marginalized and oppressed groups. Poor and marginalized groups, for example, will be disproportionally affected by increases in vector-borne illnesses (e.g., malaria), malnutrition, and diarrheal diseases, as well as by increasing rates of asthma, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease and stroke, and mental health and stress-related disorders (Portier et al., 2010).

Recognizing the fundamental relationships between rapidly changing environments and health equity, this roundtable aims to ‘bend and connect' two critically important Grand Challenges for Social Work – Close the Health Gap, focused centrally on health equity, and Create Social Responses to a Changing Environment. The need to bring these vitally important agendas together is increasingly recognized (e.g., the Lancet Countdown on Climate Change and Health, 2018), but too rarely acted upon (Friel, 2019), leaving health equity and environmental science fundamentally siloed. As a profession and discipline historically committed to engaging with people in the context of their environments, social work is well positioned to address these domains in tandem, together with their interacting implications for policy and practice. Doing so however requires intentional efforts to build cross-walks between the two grand challenges, as well containers to support and amplify social work science already being undertaking at their interface (including, notably, important research being undertaken by social work's indigenous scholars of place, environment, and health equity).

Linking questions of health equity, climate justice, environmental justice, and social justice, this roundtable brings leaders of the health equity and global environmental change grand challenges initiatives together to stimulate discussion of actual and potential cross-walks across the two initiatives. Drawing on their extensive interdisciplinary experience, the panelists will draw parallels across the two grand challenges and identify key intersections between health equity and environmental challenges in marginalized communities, including the possibilities inherent in a decolonizing approach to institutional and structural inequities. We will encourage roundtable participants to actively engage with the panelists in considering opportunities for social work science, policy, and practice to address these issues. Audience members will also have an opportunity to learn how they can participate in shaping environmental change-related goals, metrics, and action places for Healthy People 2030.

The panel consists of one moderator and four panelists from among the Grand Challenges co-leaders. Following a brief introduction to the roundtable topic and speakers, panelists will share their viewpoints, individually and through a moderated discussion linking their various perspectives. Ample time will be left for engagement with questions from the audience and collective discussion of potential directions for collaborative efforts going forward.

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