Environmental Health Disparities and Environmental Justice
Environmental factors are fundamental determinants of our health and well-being. Environmental factors can also lead to disease and health disparities when the environments where people live, work, learn and play are toxic, burdened by chemicals, and social inequities. These social inequities, often referred to as social determinants of health (SDOH), include the complex relationships between genes and the environment, individual behaviors, access to health services, socioeconomic status, literacy levels, and legislative policies. Disparities exist when health outcomes differ between populations based on the extent of environmental risk factors and SDOH.
In the United States, people of color, low-income communities, and tribal populations have been, and continue to be, disproportionately exposed to environmental conditions that can harm their health. Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. When environmental justice is achieved, environmental health disparities will be reduced.
Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research ProgramThe NIH and EPA have announced the funding of five new Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities. Learn more about their research and their community engagement efforts.
Advancing Environmental Justice
Reducing environmental health disparities and promoting environmental justice are long-standing goals of the NIEHS. To support these goals, over the past two decades, the NIEHS has supported numerous research programs, scientific conferences, and public health interventions. A report titled Advancing Environmental Justice(3MB) describes these efforts.
This report is the first to highlight the contributions to environmental justice by the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT). It provides a brief history of the environmental justice movement, the role of and funding investments made by DERT, an analysis of those contributions, conclusions, and suggested next steps.
In addition, the Advancing Environmental Justice: Annotated Bibliography(695KB) was developed as a compendium to the report to provide researchers, communities, and stakeholders with more accessible information about key outcomes reported in environmental justice projects. The annotated bibliography lists and summarizes peer-reviewed research articles from several of the projects highlighted in the report.
Related Resources and Materials
NIEHS Programs Involving Environmental Justice and Health Disparities
- Breast Cancer & the Environment Research Program
- Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers
- Climate Change and Human Health Research
- Deepwater Horizon Research Consortia
- Environmental Health Science Education
- Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers
- Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)
- Research to Action
- HAZMAT Safety & Training
Program Contact for Worker Training Education
Sharon D. Beard, M.S.
Program Contact for Community-Based Participatory Research
Symma Finn, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Program Contact for Environmental Epidemiology
Kimberly Gray, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Program Contact for Environmental Justice and Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)
Liam O'Fallon, M.A.
Claudia Thompson, Ph.D.
Chief, Susceptibility and Population Health Branch