Heat-related illness during the summer months is preventable but tragically leads to illness and death for hundreds of people every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People living in urban areas face higher temperatures and concentrated exposure to heat because of the landscape, and particular neighborhoods within cities can be significantly hotter than others. On an individual level, social workers can educate individuals about the dangers of heat exposure in outdoor and indoor settings—especially for vulnerable older adults, children, and those who work outside—and help families gain access to air conditioning or cooling centers. At the community level, social workers may advocate for solutions, such as increasing trees and vegetation in urban spaces and promoting public access to air-conditioned spaces.
These are some of the suggestions from the “Federal Initiatives on Environmental Health, Justice, and Climate” blog post written by NASW Senior Practice Associate Carrie Dorn.
Dorn notes that President Joe Biden made a commitment across federal agencies through the Justice40 Initiative, created by Executive Order 14008, requiring investments to benefit underserved communities that historically have been overburdened by pollution and environ mental hazards. The administration identified 21 programs to start as pilot programs of the Justice40 initiative, and since that time, the number of covered federal programs has grown significantly.
The goals of the initiative are to engage communities and residents in identifying local needs and work to advance sustainable solutions in seven specific areas: climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, and the development of critical clean water and wastewater infrastructure, Dorn said.