HHS creates office to tackle environmental justice

HHS established an Office of Environmental Justice on May 31, and it will focus on environmental health issues facing disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations.

The office will be housed within the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity at HHS, which President Joe Biden created in 2021 as part of an executive order.

The new office will be the "hub for environmental justice policy, programming and analysis," with tasks that include implementation of an HHS-wide strategy on environmental justice and health, as well as coordination of annual HHS environmental justice reports, according to a May 31 news release. 

Interim Director Sharunda Buchanan, PhD, who has held various roles at the CDC, will lead the new office, according to CNN.  

Dr. Buchanan told CNN she hopes the new office will address environmental health issues in underserved communities, such as elevated lead exposure and inadequate wastewater treatment.

"My goal for this office is to serve as a resource for communities; I want to work alongside these communities," she told the network. "I like to say that environmental justice and health equity are inextricably linked. If you find an environmental justice issue, you're going to inevitably find a health issue."

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the release that many communities — particularly low-income communities and communities of color — "continue to bear the brunt of pollution from industrial development, poor land use decisions, transportation and trade corridors. Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention."

To learn more about the new office, click here

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