Voces in Action
Spotlight on health: Voces Leaders Working to Protect Our Community from Climate Change
Spotlight on health: Voces Leaders Working to Protect Our Community from Climate Change

Guest blog by Voces Intern Maya Ward - @mayaw27

With climate change affecting our air quality, water resources and food supplies as a result of extreme weather, it is important to look at the corresponding increased demands on our public health system. One of the outcomes of hotter weather is that more ozone is produced. When produced at the atmospheric level, it helps shield our planet, but when it comes down to the ground, it manifests as smog and creates an increase in asthma and other respiratory problems.

Nearly half of all Latinos live in areas where air quality regularly fails to meet the EPA’s health standards. Recent increases in temperatures and smog levels exacerbate the issue for this population making poor air quality a public health issue for the Hispanic community, which is projected to reach 30 percent of the total U.S. population by 2060. Voces Verdes is proud of its public health leaders who focus on access to quality healthcare for Hispanics, crucial millions lack health insurance. The deterioration of air quality due to more extreme heat coupled with lack of access to good care threatens the health of Latino children, the elderly, and numerous workers in the fields of  agriculture, construction, and other employment sectors where they are frequently exposed to heat related stress.

Voces Verdes is a coalition of Latino leaders and organizations who together work to give voice to the Latino community regarding environmental policy, climate change and renewable energy. It is vital to have public leaders spreading the message of climate change and its connection to health, making it relevant by bringing the issue home.  

 National Hispanic Medical Association — Dr. Elena Rios

As president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), Dr. Elena Rios works with health care professionals to mentor the future generation of Hispanic doctors. The NHMA seeks to empower Hispanic physicians and other healthcare professionals to improve the health of Hispanic populations with Hispanic medical societies, resident and medical student organizations, and its public and private sector partners.

Dr. Rios and NHMA help educate communities about environmental health policies by calling to your attention the importance of States working with the EPA on their newly released Carbon Emission Standards Regulations that will impact our children and families dealing with diseases like asthma. For more information ----epa.gov.


Listen to Dr. Rios talk about why we need to cut power plant carbon pollution at new and existing plants to protect health and our children’s future.

 NHCOA — Dr. Yanira Cruz

Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO, works to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers in the areas of leadership development, housing, economic security, and health. Along with NHCOA, one of her priorities is to address and promote health issues on multiple fronts: supporting and providing health education programs, policy advocacy for improving the health and well-being of Latino seniors, their families and caregivers, as well as funding and engaging in research to inform practice and policy. Through her work, Dr. Cruz seeks to provide a Hispanic perspective on public health and aging issues, and increase understanding of the needs of Hispanics and other diverse communities facing disproportionate hardship and challenges in our society.

"Recent studies by the EPA and others show that older Americans are more vulnerable to hot temperatures and extreme weather events, which are increasing as a result of climate change. The U.S. Census estimates that Americans age 65 and older will increase to nearly 80 million by 2040; many of them are retiring in states like Florida, California, and Texas where the effects of climate change such as drought, extreme heat, and rising sea levels will be among the harshest. At NHCOA, we are concerned about the potential impact of these predictions on older Americans and Hispanic older adults, which predominantly reside in these states, especially since their bodies become more susceptible to environmental threats and their fixed incomes may prevent them from weathering the financial hits of more extreme climate events," said Dr. Cruz. 

 RESPIRA — Dr. Evelyn Montalvo-Stanton

Dr. Evelyn Montalvo-Stanton is a Pediatric Pulmonologist and the director of The Children’s RESPIRA Education Program. The program was a bilingual education program  that operated by the Rutgers (formerly UMDNJ) -New Jersey Medical School. The program educated inner city children and parents about asthma triggers, symptoms and disease management. In addition, each child enrolled in the program received an Asthma Treatment Plan to control his or her asthma.

Dr. Montalvo-Stanton established the program in 2006-2011 with grants from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey and sanofi-aventis. She also received grant funding from the Angel Family Foundation for children who had no insurance and could not afford to purchase medications or asthma equipment. The program provided services in 6 counties of New Jersey. Unfortunately due to lack of funding, the program has now closed.

 “It is unfortunate that due to lack of funding this program had to close its doors to the inner city community in 2011. Education is essential to empowering families with children who have asthma where environmental factors such as climate change with extreme cold or hot weather and air pollution worsens the lives of these children and adults with chronic lung disease. Clean air will help all of us breathe better and lead healthier lives,” says Dr. Montalvo-Stanton.

We all need to recognize that climate change has direct impacts on our lives. As described in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment Report, extreme weather phenomena, such as extreme heat waves, impact our homes, businesses and communities.  In a December 2013 poll, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Latino Decisions found that 9 out of 10 Latinos in the U.S. support the government taking action to tackle carbon pollution and to fight climate change. These women, heading health programs and organizations, are working towards helping to educate and improve the health of Latinos, helping the health effects of this climate change and extreme weather. But we need to act to prevent these health problems from increasing in number. We need to #ActOnClimate now. Go to VocesVerdes.org page or NRDC.org to take action.


 This blog originally appeared on Switchboard, NRDC's staff blog http://bit.ly/1q5qkI2

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