Empowerment Congress 2016 Youth Summit

“The Case for Open Space” was the theme of the Youth Summit workshop on January 16, 2016, designed for youth to give their input on the needs and opportunities for parks and recreational spaces in urban Los Angeles. The Outreach program helps coordinate the Environmental Committee of the Empowerment Congress, a civic engagement program of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Eighty-five young adults from 8 organizations participated in the event at the University of Southern California, which kicked off with a keynote from D’artganan Scorza of the Social Justice Learning Institute on the power and importance of getting involved in changing the space around us.

Urban planner James Rojas then led a hands-on activity called “Place It!” where each participant built their ideal park out of small objects. Many of the youth designed displays featured gardens and lush green spaces, places for families to walk and play, community centers, and many features. To connect students with current engagement efforts, Rita Robinson with the Department of Parks and Recreation led an activity similar to a community meeting for the Los Angeles County Park Needs Assessment.

Participants went through information and maps from their neighborhoods, and ranked their top priorities for parks.  Participants were thinking of their families and whole community when they put at the top of the list: accessibility, changing stations, children’s playgrounds,  bike lanes/paths, bike rental, community center, community garden, dog area/park, exercise equipment, pond, lighting, nursing/changing stations, picnic area, pool/splash pad, security features, trees, walking/jogging/hiking paths, and water fountains.

Comments from Mr. Rojas help to summarize the day:
“From the youth comments it was transformative for them. We were able to tap into knowledge that they didn’t even know they had!  This gives them a new way of seeing and articulating their community needs, challenges, and opportunities from the built environment they experience every day. This empowers them to get involved, engage and become the future leaders in their community.”

 

USC Establishes Research Center to Untangle Causes of Childhood Obesity in Low-Income, Urban Minority Populations

Exposure to pollution and social stresses suspected to be among the key factors

USC has been awarded a federally funded research center to explore why childhood obesity affects some populations more than others.

The Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors (MADRES) Center will study pregnant women and their infants over time in low-income, urban minority communities in Los Angeles that have both high obesity rates and wide-ranging exposure to environmental pollutants.

Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, Center for Obesity Research Center, and Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute will collaborate on the initiative.

“One of the most striking concerns about the obesity epidemic is the ethnic disparity among women and children,” said Carrie Breton, assistant professor at Keck Medicine of USC and co-principal investigator of the center, which will try to determine how environmental factors influence childhood obesity. “Rates of childhood obesity, pregnancy-related obesity and their associated health consequences are disproportionately high in Hispanic women and children.”

For example, in Boyle Heights — home to one of the largest Hispanic/Mexican populations in the United States — 50 percent of teens are overweight or obese, compared to 34 percent in Los Angeles County and 29 percent statewide. Located at the confluence of Interstates 5 and 10, the 101 Freeway and State Route 60, Boyle Heights also faces some of the worst pollution in the county and has a disproportionately high poverty rate (33 percent).

“Childhood obesity is one of the critical issues of our time, threatening the health of an entire generation of children,” said Frank Gilliland, professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and co-principal investigator. “Over-nutrition and sedentary lifestyle clearly play roles, but environmental determinants of obesity are also likely to be important and modifiable causes.”

The MADRES Center will recruit 750 mother-infant pairs from low-income urban hospitals in Los Angeles over the course of three years to investigate the problem from two angles:
• Project 1 will explore how environmental factors relate to child weight at birth and at 12 months of age.
• Project 2 will examine the effects of pre- and postpartum environmental exposures as well as psychological stress and behavioral risk factors that affect the mother’s gestational weight gain and postpartum weight retention.

Smartphone apps will allow the team to collect real-time information about stressors and lifestyle behaviors during the daily lives of pregnant and new mothers.

Two teams will split up the research — one will work directly with mothers and infants; another will measure and map pollution.

The community outreach team will develop workshops with local partners, send out new research results and create materials for the mothers and families in environmental health resource centers.

Funding for the MADRES Center comes from the National Institutes of Health, including the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, grant 1P50ES026086-01.

More information about the MADRES Center is available at: http://madrescenter.blogspot.com/.

Contact: Robert Perkins at (213) 740-9226 or perkinsr@usc.edu

Near-Roadway Air Pollution and Coronary Heart Disease Study Published

Research encourages policymakers to consider effects of near-roadway air pollution when planning high-density housing near public transportation, say Keck School of Medicine of USC investigators

Heart disease from exposure to pollution near roads and freeways is often overlooked

LOS ANGELES — Policymakers and developers planning high-density housing near public transit with the goal of reducing automobile use and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming need a clearer understanding of the health risks from air pollution that may be created if that housing is also built near busy roads and freeways, according to new research by Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) scientists.

Click here for link to the study.

The study is one of the first to focus on the burden of heart disease that can result from residential exposures near major roadways in a large urban area. According to the researchers, the effects of the near-roadway component of air pollution is generally underappreciated and not included in estimates of air pollution-related heart disease. These near-roadway exposures are largely unregulated.

The study estimated the current impact of near-roadway pollution and of likely future exposure under proposed urban redevelopment plans for Southern California in response to landmark California legislation passed in 2008 to reduce greenhouse gases by 2035. Senate Bill 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, sets regional targets to decrease vehicle traffic, in part by promoting urban redevelopment with multifamily homes in corridors with good public transportation. The anticipated result is less reliance on private automobiles, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and corresponding reduced levels of air pollution hazardous to health.

“The health benefits of these reduced emissions are partially offset by increased exposure to high concentrations of near-roadway pollutants among a larger population living next to major traffic corridors,” said Rob McConnell, professor of preventive medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC and corresponding author.

“The response to SB 375 is a historic opportunity to optimize the health co-benefits of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An appreciation of the health risks of near-roadway pollution would strengthen the argument for proposals to zone buffer areas between busy roadways and new high-density housing and to develop a zero-emission or near-zero-emission vehicle fleet.”

“Near-roadway pollutants are rapidly diluted over short distances,” said Rakesh Ghosh, first author and research associate, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Residential exposure reduces markedly within a few hundred feet of even the busiest roadways.”

The investigators noted that the population is aging and that older persons are more vulnerable to the effects of pollution. Therefore, the number of heart attacks caused by air pollution is likely to increase over the next two decades even though pollution is decreasing.

Other researchers contributing to the study include Frederick Lurmann and Bryan Penfold (Sonoma Technology), Nino Kunzli and Laura Perez (University of Basel and Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland), Sylvia Brandt (University of Massachusetts), John Wilson (Spatial Sciences Institute, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences), and Meredith Milet (California Department of Public Health).

The research, “Near roadway air pollution and coronary heart disease: Burden of disease and potential impact of a greenhouse gas reduction strategy in Southern California” was published July 7 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The research was funded by National Institutes of Health grants P01ES022845, P01ES011627, P30ES007048, R01ES016535, U.S. EPA grant RD83544101, and The Hastings Foundation.

Article cited:
Ghosh, R., Lurmann, F., Perez, L., Penfold, B, Brandt, S., Wilson, J., Milet, M., Kunzli, N & McConnell, R. (2015). Near roadway air pollution and coronary heart disease: Burden of disease and potential impact of a greenhouse gas reduction strategy in Southern California. Environmental Health Perspectives Published online July 7, 2015; doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408865

About Keck Medicine of USC

Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-based medical systems in the Los Angeles area. Encompassing academic, research and clinical excellence, the medical system attracts internationally renowned experts who teach and practice at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the region’s first medical school; includes the renowned USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the first comprehensive cancer centers established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States; has a medical faculty practice, the USC Care Medical Group; operates the Keck Medical Center of USC, which includes two acute care hospitals: 401-licensed bed Keck Hospital of USC and 60-licensed bed USC Norris Cancer Hospital; and owns USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, a 158-licensed bed community hospital. It also includes more than 40 outpatient facilities, some at affiliated hospitals, in Los Angeles, Orange, Kern, Tulare and Ventura counties.U.S. News & World Report ranked Keck Medical Center of USC among the Top 10 in ophthalmology and among the Top 25 hospitals in the United States for urology and cancer care.

For more information, go to www.keckmedicine.org/beyond

Contact: Robert Perkins at (213) 740-9226 or perkinsr@usc.edu

Southern California Children’s Health Study Forum

The Southern California Children’s Health Study Forum: “Healthier kids and the future of cleaner air” was a chance for researchers to talk about the latest information about air pollution in the Los Angeles basin, and what this means for children’s health.  Community leaders discussed their work to reduce emissions from freeway pollution and the ports in the future.

Thank you to all the speakers and participants at the May 18, 2015 event in Long Beach, CA; nearly 100 residents and members of nonprofit organizations attended.

The event featured panelists Frank Gilliland, Rob McConnell, Ed Avol, and Jim Gauderman of USC, mark! Lopez, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Elisa Nicholas, Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, and moderator Andrea Hricko, USC.  Panelists discussed recent research, including studies on overall levels of air pollution and improving children’s lung function, studies linking air pollution exposure to higher weight and obesity, and the health costs of air pollution to families.  Levels of ultrafine particles, the smallest particles that can get deep into the lungs, are still too high near roadways and downwind of LAX Airport.

Residents were able to talk with USC scientists about their environmental health concerns, and discuss how to use research results in the future.  Participants brought up many important issues, and talked about ways in which the community and researchers can partner together.

“Building partnerships and opportunities for youth to go on to these career paths is important.”
– East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted the Children’s Health Study.”
– Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma

“The work you’re doing here in LA is also helping people 1500 miles away.”
– Diesel Health Project, Kansas City

Panel of speakers at the forum.

Over 100 people attended.

Organized by the Trade, Health, and Environment Impact Project, and sponsored by the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, the Southern California Children’s Health Sciences Center, Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, and The Kresge Foundation. 

Update on the expansion of the 710 Freeway South

Our Center members and outreach program have been involved in discussions, meetings, and planning regarding the I-710 Corridor for much of the previous decade.  This has included speaking at public hearings, participating in planning sessions, providing the latest scientific research findings to involved policymakers and commenting on potential alternatives developed by the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO), Caltrans, and the Gateway Cities Council of Governments, the regional organization providing a forum for the 21 cities adjacent to and/or directly impacted by the I-710 Freeway.  Our primary concerns have centered on the health impacts of near-roadway air pollution. Expanding the number of lanes on the I-710 means that freeway pollution will be closer to homes, schools, and parks. Today’s article in the Los Angeles Times describes the current CalTrans plans which appear to be supported by Southern California Assn. of Governments. Also note, an alternative that has been offered by the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice.

Source: Metro. Click on image to go to original.

Outreach program and community partners host “Diesel and Your Health” lunch forum

On November 24, the community/academic collaborative the “Trade, Health and Environment (THE) Impact Project” partners hosted the first of an ongoing lunch series. The Community Outreach and Engagement Program of USC’s Environmental Health Centers is a longstanding part of THE Impact Project. The meeting focused on the urgency of addressing health impacts from diesel emissions, and brought together organizations and concerned community members from impacted areas.

Moderator Michele Prichard, director of Common Agenda for the Liberty Hill Foundation, kicked off the program by asking participants to introduce themselves and tell the others on a scale of 1-10 how much they thought they already knew about the health effects of diesel emissions. (Attendees were much too modest in their assessments!) Presenter Andrea Hricko of USC then did a presentation on the Health Effects of Diesel, highlighting the national, state and local history of the path that diesel emission reduction has taken. She noted that although progress has been made in reducing overall diesel emissions in the Southern California regions, there is still a long way to go in terms of reducing diesel emissions in specific diesel “hot spots” around the region. Such “hot spots ” receive the brunt of diesel emissions, thereby raising health risks in the most impacted communities, near the ports, rail yards, warehouses and traffic corridors.

These risks were highlighted in the recently released MATES IV report from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, found here. The report has an interactive map, allowing viewers to click on their communities and see the overall cancer risk from air toxics, including diesel particulate matter.

Professor Martha Matsuoka from Occidental College outlined the history of THE Impact Project whose efforts included hosting conferences that were the impetus for developing a nationwide Moving Forward Network. Matsuoka explained that the Network serves as a resource, bringing environmental, community, academic, and other groups from around the country together to share information, resources, trainings and workshops.

To round out the featured presentations, mark! Lopez, Director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, spoke to the participants, many of whom live in areas impacted by heavy diesel emissions, of the need for community change to push for environmental justice for people living around ports, freeways, and goods movement centers. Lopez spoke about not accepting “the way things are,” but changing the environment to be a healthy place in which people live, work, play and go to school.

At the conclusion of the presentations, participants discussed their concerns and questions. The following themes emerged for future activities and further information:

  • Strategies for healthy living in polluted and disadvantaged communities
  • Advances in technology to deal with port/goods movement pollution
  • Local forums hosted in affected communities
  • Updates on the current status of goods movement projects in the area
  • Scientific information in easy-to-access form for community

THE Impact Project Partners include:
Coalition For A Safe Environment (CFASE)
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ)
Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma (LBACA)
University of Southern California (USC) Centers for Environmental Health, Community Outreach Program
Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), Occidental College

Thanks to sponsorship by the Luce China-Environment Program at the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College.

EJSI Summer Institute Culminating Projects and Presentation

On Wednesday July 23 the Environmental Justice Summer Institute drew to a close. The hard work of the student and intern participants was showcased through a presentation at Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ 2nd District main office during the Environmental Committee meeting of the Empowerment Congress.
 

The youth gave a presentation (below) and showcased the videos that they made (below) that summarized their EJSI experiences. Committee members listened intently and engaged in a question/answer session with the youth participants, giving them a chance to speak about what they learned and how they think they might utilize the knowledge and experiences gained during the program. The youth were challenged to articulate not only what they learned, but the lessons they intend on taking away and applying to their lives in the near future.Some of the lessons learned were:

  • With knowledge they have a chance to make a difference.
  • The communities that they live in have higher than average levels of air and noise pollution.
  • All it takes is the effort of one person to make a difference to the environment such as walking to the store instead of having one’s parents drive them down the street.
  • Some who were already interested in environmental justice felt more equipped with knowledge and confidence to take leadership roles among their peers. One participant intends to start an Environmental Justice club at her school.

Prior to the last day of the program, the participants were visited by Dr. Joseph Lyou, President and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air and board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.  Dr. Lyou spoke about the role of community organizations and future opportunities for the students.

The Environmental Justice Summer Institute program is a partnership of USC Environmental Health,
Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA), From Lot to Spot (FLTS), and Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI). Learn more about the institute in these blog posts and Resource Page:
Environmental Justice Summer Institute: Youth Workshops
Youth Pollution Monitoring Activities across the Southland
Teaching Environmental Justice through Building Model Cities

USC Environmental Health gratefully thanks the NIEHS, U.S. EPA, The Kresge Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation for their combined support which has allowed the Centers’ participation in these efforts to educate youth about air pollution.

by Wendy Gutschow