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Kresge’s White-Newsome explores connections between health and environment in panel appearance


Protecting people and the natural systems that sustain them has never been an abstract notion for Kresge Senior Program Officer/Environment Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome. She’s factored our warming climate into health care decisions for loved ones, fought to reduce pollution in low-income urban neighborhoods and worked with children with developmental deficits that were caused by lead poisoning.

On Tuesday she drew on those experiences as a panelist at the National Council for Science and the Environment’s National Conference and Global Forum in Washington D.C. The conference’s theme was “Integrating Environment and Health.”

White-Newsome’s panel, “Tip of the Iceberg: Communities on the Frontline of Risk,” explored the connections between the well-being of residents in underserved communities and environmental influences. White-Newsome spoke of the life experiences and her current work with Kresge’s Environment Program, which helps low-income communities in America’s cities build resilience in the face of climate change.

She told the audience that scientists and communities must work more cohesively to create positive change in health outcomes and environmental conditions.

Philanthropy, she said, has a crucial role to play in helping communities integrate health, climate change and other environmental stressors into their work. For example, funders who only support environment work, or who solely focus on health issues, must integrate their efforts if they are to have lasting impact on neighborhoods. And those efforts must always be equity-focused – ensuring that low-income and other underserved residents are meaningfully engaged in both the process and the positive outcomes.

“There is growing recognition that breaking down traditional silos is essential to creating robust, meaningful change in community work,” White-Newsome said after the conference.

Joining White-Newsome on the panel were Dr. Octaviana Trujillo of the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies at Northern Arizona University; Dr. Patrick Breysse of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Catherine Pugh, mayor of Baltimore. It was moderated by Mustafa Santiago Ali of the Environmental Protection Agency.