ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH LITERACY INITIATIVES

Our environment, where we live, learn, work, and play, determines an important role in our health. 

​The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil from which we get our food, can have a direct relationship to the health of our hearts, lungs, and physical development. Helping students understand this relationship is an important step to creating a lifelong appreciation for a safer, healthier environment. 

This is why Kentucky Environmental Foundation is partnering with Kentucky teachers to develop a state based curriculum to learn about environmental public health.  By developing a curriculum that fits existing science requirements, students will learn about public health, local ecological issues, the impacts of pollution, and civic engagement  while meeting Kentucky’s science standards.

This curriculum incorporates a range of environmental and public health assessment methodologies ​including basic air, water, and soil testing, community based participatory research, basic concepts of epidemiology, and digital storytelling – a method for communities to converse about public health. It is is designed to be used across Kentucky utilizing existing resources within the state including Kentucky Watershed Watch, Project WET, County Extension programs, and online resources such as Map Box and ARC GIS programming for students.  The course is also designed to engage students to interact with representatives from universities during trainings in water testing, GIS, air, and soil monitoring, encouraging students to think about higher education.

Powell County, Kentucky has one of the highest rates of cancer in the country. 

Students at Powell County High School shared a concern that their environment might have an impact on their health and decided to explore what factors might play a role in this concern.  Finding a direct relationship between the environment and the impact that it has on health can be challenging and can require extensive epidemiological research.  However, engaging students to do environmental assessments and to be aware of the relationships between their health and their environment can be explored through a diverse range of measures.  Helping make those connections while working towards a healthier environment can ultimately lead to a healthier community. 

Many environmental curricula encourage students to appreciate the environment for purposes of protecting natural resources.  This curriculum will take students one step further to help them identify how contamination in their environment can ultimately have an impact on their health. 

Understanding our environment, where we live, learn, work and play, can help inform students of the steps required for its protection and ultimately the protection of their own health.