This question asks about the various conditions in the community that increase environmental health vulnerability. This list provides some examples of these conditions:
These conditions are often collectively called social determinants of health. These conditions often intersect with each other, amplifying their effects. When answering this question, particular attention should be paid to identifying how each condition impacts vulnerability to the specific types of environmental hazards being discussed. For example, linguistic isolation in Santa Ana, CA increases the difficulty of communicating the risks presented by RMP facilities to the population and presents challenges for emergency alert systems in the event of a worst case scenario.
The first two essays in the sidebar to the right take a deeper dive into the concept of social determinants of health. The first essay focuses on elaborating the definition of social determinants of health and the second focuses on thinking about how to address health inequities while accounting for social determinants of health.
The idea of cumulative impacts is also important for answering this question. One of the environmental justice movement's core principles is that environmental hazards and negative environmental impacts are not equitably distributed. Instead, they are concentrated in communities that also face multiple other stressors (high rates of poverty, racial marginalization, linguistic isolation, etc.). As a result, it's critical that environmental justice research and activism develop a holistic picture of what problems face a community rather than focusing strictly on a single stressor without attention to other factors that might exacerbate its effects or make it particularly resistant to change.
The third essay in the sidebar focuses on various models that have been used to conceptualize cumulative impact and social vulnerability models. The final essay fcouses on thinking about how to visualize cumulative impacts, primarily through various mapping tools.
Figure shows how environmental threat and social factors determine risk for developing disease.
This is a conceptual map of the interaction between traditional risk assessment, focused on biological dose and adverse outcome pathways emphasized by the Chemical Safety for Sustainability research program, and community-scale contributors to cumulative risk assessment needed to address environmental health disparities.
- EPA 2016
Visually we can see how the traditional risk assessment lacks a complex, comprehensive understanding of structural inequities and their effect on health.
Illustrates various potential roles of chemical and nonchemical stressors and buffers.
Social determinants of health interact with the three elements of vulnerability. The left side boxes provide examples of social determinants of health associated with each of the elements of vulnerability. Increased exposure, increased sensitivity and reduced adaptive capacity all affect vulnerability at different points in the causal chain from climate drivers to health outcomes (middle boxes). Adaptive capacity can influence exposure and sensitivity and also can influence the resilience of individuals or populations experiencing health impacts by influencing access to care and preventive services. The right side boxes provide illustrative examples of the implications of social determinants on increased exposure, increased sensitivity, and reduced adaptive capacity.
- U.S. Global Change Research Program
The following photo essay, developed by Taina Araujo, provides an example of what identifying the intersecting conditions that increase social vulnerability looks like in the context of Santa Ana, CA.