HHS seeks input on plan to address environmental health disparities

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The Health and Human Services Department is seeking comments on whether its newest environmental health proposals adequately addresses the risks climate change poses to the health of underserved communities.

In a notice published Thursday, HHS outlines six strategies to tackle environmental health and climate-related hazards among low-income and historically marginalized communities. Those include expanding linguistic capabilities and cultural competence within the healthcare delivery system, developing community partnerships to coordinate social services organizations, funding research and measuring impact.

HHS is also weighing more significant investments in regions most affected by extreme weather events and pollution. For example, the department proposes providing in-home air conditioners and financial aid to moderate high-cost energy bills.

The department also seeks to increase the pipeline of people entering environment-related careers. HHS plans to to recruit candidates from underserved areas for jobs in environmental cleanup, hazardous waste removal and emergency response. The department also aims to finance development programs related to climate, natural disasters, and clean energy, transportation, housing, and water infrastructure. In addition, HHS intends to develop public health messaging guidance that states and tribes can use to educate people on environmental health risks.

HHS wants to know if stakeholders believe the plan appropriately captures the urgency of the environmental crisis and what they think are other steps it should take. HHS specifically solicits feedback on how to eliminate economic and racial health disparities related to the environment.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing federal agencies including HHS to develop environmental health strategies on his first day in office last year. The latest HHS proposals build on plans issued in 2012. HHS is accepting comments through May 19.

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