UCLA Health recognizes the adverse health burden of environmental degradation is borne disproportionately by black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities and those from low-socioeconomic status. Many of these communities live in close proximity to highways, power plants, or other industrialized areas making these populations more likely to breathe in harmful particulate matter that can lead to respiratory health morbidities or higher instances of cancer.
Similarly, the recent coronavirus pandemic has accentuated the poor health and economic conditions of underserved populations. Poor air quality from fossil fuels and ash can lead to pulmonary and cardiovascular morbidities, which also increases the likelihood that these patient populations could suffer severe symptoms if they contract the virus. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is one of the leading causes of global death, prematurely killing more than 7 million people worldwide. In comparison, the recent coronavirus pandemic caused a total of around 2.7 million deaths in the year after the first cases were reported.
One of the most important synergies between the inequities caused by coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis is the centrality of healthcare in the response. Our sustainability department works closely with our Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team to help advance their five-pillar program:
- Advance access, equity and opportunity among staff
- Support organizational learning to achieve cultural humility, anti-racism and bias elimination
- Build a supportive workplace and clinical environment
- Ensure equitable patient access, care and service
- Enhance community service and engagement
We recognize that dismantling systemic racism, increasing diverse representation, and advancing equity are critical to building a just and resilient future. As an organization, we are working to better understand instances of discrimination and building an anti-racism culture. We recognize the history of excluding BIPOC populations in the environmental movement, and understand it must be intentionally dismantled to allow them to be heard in order for equity to be achieved. To learn more, visit the UCLA office of Health, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.