CDC, HHS unveil national tool to track health effects of environmental issues

The CDC and HHS on Aug. 10 released the Environmental Justice Index, a tool meant to help public health officials and communities identify areas at high risk of experiencing negative health effects from environmental factors. 

The index uses data from the Census, Environmental Protection Agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the CDC to provide a single environmental justice score for every census tract. The CDC described it as the "first national, geographic-driven tool designed to measure the cumulative impacts of environmental burden through the lenses of human health and health equity." Cumulative impacts are considered the total harm a community faces from a combination of environmental burden, pre-existing health conditions and social factors. 

"While everyone is at some risk from the health impacts of environmental hazards, the communities that are most affected are often those that are already experiencing health inequities," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD. "CDC is taking action to address the adverse health effects associated with environmental injustice by identifying those most at risk with tools like the Environmental Justice Index." 

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