The 16th Annual Child Health Advocate & NOW Youth Leadership Awards

Join us for CEH Day: Project Connect on Thursday, October 14th, 1-5 pm ET. This educational and entertaining virtual event highlights organizations' and individuals' celebrations, challenges, and innovations in children's environmental health, and will culminate with the 16th Annual Child Health Advocate Awards and Discussion (approximately 4 pm ET).
Learn more about the awards.

2021 Child Health Advocate Awardees:

José F. Cordero, MD, MPH
Gordhan and Jinx Patel Distinguished Professor of Public Health and head of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics in University of Georgia’s College of Public Health

Originally trained as a pediatrician, Dr. Cordero has dedicated his career to addressing maternal and child health as well as minority health and health disparities. He currently co-directs the Puerto Rico Test site for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) Center as well as the Center for Research on Early Childhood Exposure and Development (CRECE), both of which examine how exposure to environmental contaminants contributes to the high rate of preterm birth in Puerto Rico.

For 27 years, Dr. Cordero served at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he focused on improving the health of mothers and children. His most prominent roles were deputy director of the National Immunization Program and founding director of the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. In the U.S. Public Health Service, he attained the rank of assistant surgeon general.

In addition to his research and clinical work, Dr. Cordero serves as the executive director of the Puerto Rico Brain Trust for Tropical Diseases Research and Prevention, a group that seeks to facilitate and speed up the development of rapid tests, vaccines, vector control, and prevention strategies for diseases like Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya and others.

Dr. Cordero is a former national trustee of the March of Dimes Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies, and he is a longtime member and past president of the Teratology Society, an international and multidisciplinary group of scientists who study birth defects, reproduction and disorders of developmental origin. He currently serves as a member of the Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kristin Schafer, MA
Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network (PAN)

Before joining PAN in 1996, Ms. Schafer worked for the World Resources Institute’s Sustainable Agriculture program, as a communications specialist for EPA, and as an agroforestry extension officer in Kenya. Prior to stepping in as Executive Director, Ms. Schafer was PAN’s Program and Policy Director.

Ms. Schafer has held many roles at PAN over the years, including coordinating the global campaign to phase out the ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide under the Montreal Protocol, as well as the international campaign targeting persistent organic pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention. In her POPs campaign work Ms. Schafer worked with partners around the world to protect the health of current and future generations by winning global phaseouts of hazardous chemicals that build up in our bodies, contaminate human breastmilk, and can persist in the environment for decades.

Throughout her career at PAN Ms. Schafer's work has focused particularly on protecting children from the harms of pesticides. Working closely with PAN's scientists, she has authored or co-authored several PAN reports, including Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in our Bodies and Corporate Accountability (2004), Nowhere to Hide: Persistent Toxic Chemicals in the U.S. Food Supply (2005), A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children's health and intelligence (2012) and Kids on the Frontline: How pesticides are undermining the health of rural children (2016). Each of the reports Ms. Schafer authored — along with dozens of blogs, fact sheets and action alerts — translate the latest scientific evidence into accessible tools to support PAN's campaigns and enable those most harmed by pesticide exposure to press for change.

Ms. Schafer also serves as PAN North America's Regional Coordinator in the PAN International network, and is Co-chair of the Board for Veggielution, an urban farm and food justice organization in her hometown of San Jose, California.

Catherine Coleman Flowers, MA
Founding Director, Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ)

Catherine Coleman Flowers is an environmental activist bringing attention to the largely invisible problem of inadequate waste and water sanitation infrastructure in rural communities in the United States. As founding director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ), Ms. Flowers builds partnerships across social scales—from close neighbors, to local elected officials and regional nonprofits, to federal lawmakers and global organizations—to identify and implement solutions to the intersecting challenges of water and sanitation infrastructure, public health, and economic development.

Ms. Flowers grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, an area plagued by poverty and failing infrastructure, which often results in raw sewage in yards and waterways and contaminated drinking water for residents. With a deep understanding of the historical, political, economic, and physical constraints that impede the implementation of better infrastructure in the region, she has engaged collaborators across a broad range of disciplinary expertise to document how lack of access to sufficient and sustained waste treatment and clean water can trap rural, predominantly Black populations in a vicious cycle of poverty and disease. In 2011, Ms. Flowers worked with the UN Special Rapporteur to uncover the startling level of poverty in Lowndes County and the southern United States more broadly. With the Columbia University Law School Human Rights Clinic and Institute for the Study of Human Rights, she published “Flushed and Forgotten: Sanitation and Wastewater in Rural Communities in the United States” (2019), an examination of inequalities in access to sanitation and clean water within a framework of human rights. The report exposes the extent of water contamination and sanitation problems in poor, rural communities across the country, largely due to the marginalization of these communities. Ms. Flowers also spearheaded a collaboration with tropical disease researchers focused on intestinal parasitic infections spread by way of insufficient water treatment and waste sanitation. The researchers found that hookworm, long thought to have been eliminated from the South, is in fact prevalent among the residents of Lowndes County, prompting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to undertake a similar, larger study across the rural American South. Ms. Flowers’s testimony to the U.S. Congress led to the introduction of legislation in 2019 to address neglected diseases of poverty in the United States.

Ms. Flowers is broadening the scope of environmental justice to include issues specific to disenfranchised rural communities and galvanizing policy and research to redress failing infrastructure that perpetuates socioeconomic disparities in rural areas across the United States.

In addition to her role at CREEJ, Flowers serves as the rural development manager for the Equal Justice Initiative, a senior fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics, and a board member for the Climate Reality Project and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Flowers earned a master’s degree in history in 2015 from the University of Nebraska. Flowers was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly referred to as the “Genius Grant,” in 2020. That same year, she published her memoir Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret.

Sharon Lerner, MPH

Investigative Reporter, The Intercept

Sharon Lerner is an Investigative Reporter at The Intercept covering health, science, and the environment. Her work focuses on how corporate pollution impacts ordinary Americans as well as failures within the environmental regulatory process.

Her stories have been used in congressional hearings, have helped lead the U.S. Air Force to discontinue use of PFC-containing firefighting foam, and have helped get PFOA listed in the Stockholm Convention. Her investigation of chlorpyrifos was the first to lay out how the Trump administration might reverse a long-awaited ban of the pesticide. Her stories have also appeared in the New York Times, The Nation, and the Washington Post, among other publications. Sharon’s reporting has received an Izzy Award and awards from the Society for Environmental Journalists, the American Public Health Association, the Women and Politics Institute, and the Newswoman’s Club of New York.

Ms. Lerner’s series about perfluorinated chemicals, “The Teflon Toxin,” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award and featured in the documentary, “The Devil We Know.” Her ongoing coverage of those chemicals, in the “Bad Chemistry” series, has won several awards. Ms. Lerner has also covered health issues and, in 2010, wrote a book on American family policy. She has worked in public radio and turned one of her investigative pieces for The Intercept, about an environmental activist who landed in prison, into a long-form radio piece.

Child Health Advocate
Martha Berger, MPA
Office of Children’s Health Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Martha Berger started working at the Environmental Protection Agency as a Presidential Management Intern in 1984. Martha currently works in the Office of Children’s Health Protection, where for the last 20 years she has been establishing relationships both domestic and international, and working with partners in health and in environment to promote understanding, design and run programs, foster research and research translation on environment and health interactions during all the stages of early life, from the reproductive period and through childhood.

Martha ran the Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee as the designated federal official for many years and is the EPA manager of the interagency Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units program, a twenty-five-year partnership with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. From 2014 to 2017 she co-chaired the climate change subcommittee of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to children, established by Executive Order 13045 in 1997 and was recently named co-chair of a new subcommittee on Climate, Emergencies, and Disasters.

She contributed to the USGCRP Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment by ensuring that each chapter cover prenatal and childhood exposure and health effects and is an author on the chapter on vulnerable populations. A native of New Orleans, Martha remains keenly interested in promoting solutions for addressing climate change and its health effects.

NOW Youth Leadership
Ananya Sridhar

Ananya Sridhar is a rising freshman at Stanford University from the San Francisco Bay Area. Having a long-time passion for science, she started the Neptune Project in middle school after hearing about the Flint water crisis. The Neptune Project is a nonprofit whose mission is to enable children everywhere to access safe and lead-free water. With mentorship from her chemistry teacher, Ananya developed a machine-learning algorithm to identify communities at elevated risk for lead contamination. By pinpointing high-risk areas, this model allows for targeted and cost-effective water testing. After testing and refining her predictive model in California, Ananya is now identifying at-risk zip codes in Arizona and Nevada as well. Through grant writing and fundraising, Ananya raised money for lead testing, pipe remediation, and water filters for families in these communities. Ananya is also working to develop a simple, affordable litmus paper test that changes color when it comes into contact with lead. Since founding Project Neptune, she has been accepted for publication in the Young Scientists Journal, been selected as the youngest finalist for the 2020 Westly Prize, and named a General Motors and Ashoka STEM Changemaker. Perhaps most importantly, Ananya is committed to inspiring other young people to create change in their communities. She is building a network of students to act as environmental ambassadors, and she has developed a workshop on how young people can use technology as a force for social good.

Learn more about the 2021 NOW Youth Leadership Runner-Up.


About the Awards:

The Child Health Advocate Awards honor outstanding children's environmental health leaders (age 22 and up) in Policy, Science, Community, Business, and Arts/Media. These child health champions have gone above and beyond to create systemic change, protecting children from environmental hazards.

The NOW  Youth Leadership Award was created as part of the Children’s Environmental Health Network’s 20th-anniversary celebration in 2012, in honor of Executive Director Nsedu Obot Witherspoon. This award honors a young person who has demonstrated exceptional environmental health leadership--protecting human health, especially of our most vulnerable populations.