My name is Cynthia Moices. I am a community advocate for environmental, climate, and social justice. I graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Science. I am also a Puerto Rican woman in her early twenties, who comes from a low-income community of color -- Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY -- a community that experiences a disproportionate amount of environmental burdens. Now I work for UPROSE, a community-based organization in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which is a similar community to Brownsville. UPROSE is an intergenerational, multi-racial organization and is nationally-recognized for promoting the sustainability and resiliency of its community. We do this through community organizing, education, leadership development, and cultural/artistic expression.
I chose this path -- to work at an organization like UPROSE -- because of my personal experience of growing up in a town where environmental burdens affect the health and wellness of my friends and family. However, it wasn’t until I started working in the field of environmental justice that I was really able to make the connection between environment, climate, and people’s health, and to articulate that connection. My heart always told me that the reason my family and friends were getting sick was not entirely their fault, but rather the result of their environment.
On a global scale, my generation, and the generations after me, are in trouble. We are in trouble because there is a legacy of pollution in our communities. We are in trouble because so many untested and potentially harmful chemicals are added to products that make their way into the communities and homes where we live, learn, and play. We are in trouble because we have inherited a climate crisis and will continue to suffer from the serious health consequences associated with it. However, we can step up and be a part of the solution to reduce the effects of climate change so that we don’t leave our children with this legacy.
Since 1992, the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN), a national and multi-disciplinary organization, has been working to bring attention to children’s environmental health, and to promote the need to protect the developing child from environmental health hazards and promote healthier environments. CEHN conducts this vital work by supporting prevention-oriented research, serving as a leader by increasing awareness, education, and prevention strategies, and promoting the development of sound public health and child-focused national policy.
When CEHN celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2012, we took that time to truly assess where the field of children’s environmental health protection has come and identified the gaps that still require serious attention. Although noteworthy efforts to improve the environmental health of children have been achieved over the last two decades, we faced the hard reality that current research focuses, policies, and practices still do not adequately protect children from an ever-changing environment. The paradigm shift required at all levels throughout society to proactively consider children and future generations has not yet been made.
This hard reality provided CEHN with the drive and motivation to utilize our leadership in the field of child health protection to create a proactive vision for the 21st century: a vision that will focus on healthy environments and speak to the widening definition of “environment and health outcomes”, that will expand to include many more sectors, and that will make strong connections with science, innovative technology, basic and creative community action, and state and national policy. A vision that will form a framework for productive action by many individuals and organizations nationally and potentially across our borders.
After several key stakeholder meetings over the last two years, including a historical Wingspread Summit in the fall of 2014, the vision that we collectively sought was developed and confirmed. From there, CEHN, with the assistance of various leaders in the research, community health, non-profit, practice, legal, policy, economic, and Federal arenas, spent the majority of the last year working on the framework that the field has been seeking for productive action to protect children from environmental hazards. This framework is titled A Blueprint for Protecting Children’s Environmental Health: An Urgent Call to Action.
This Blueprint is intended to be a high-level resource to assist various leaders in our communities -- and for the entire field of children’s health and protection -- to prioritize the needs that are still very prevalent, on behalf of our children. The purpose of this resource is also to leverage those efforts that are showing, or that have a strong potential to show positive return to children and their families living in U.S. communities across the nation. It is our responsibility to do much better for our children.
We cannot continue to risk the future of our children of today and those generations to come by not acting on the science, case examples, and practice strategies available to us. The time to act is now!
Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, MPH
Executive Director, CEHN