Establishing a Green New Deal Approach to Public Health and Care
by Batul Hassan, Seth Prins, Alex Moulton, Sage Ponder, Alyssa Battistoni, and Amanda Novello
The nature and scale of the response to the climate crisis will be the determining factor in shaping the health of communities for generations to come. Climate breakdown drives socially-differentiated impacts on health, from more frequent global pandemics like COVID-19 to deteriorating air quality, reduced food availability, and increasing climate disasters including heat waves, droughts, extreme storms, and more. As the planet enters a period of increasing climate chaos, the collective response will either deepen disparities or address the drivers of climate breakdown and health inequity together.
In the United States, race is a primary indicator of proximity to extreme heat, localized toxic air and water pollution, and environmental sacrifice zones. Black people have asthma rates that are nearly 20 percent higher than white people. Nearly half of Latino people in the United States live in counties where air quality does not meet EPA standards. The effects of mining for energy transition minerals is concentrated within 35 miles of federally- recognized Indigenous land. As the relationship between race and environmental health injustice grows stronger, continued reliance on acute and short-term responses is not only insufficient but deadly and counterproductive.
"A Green New Deal approach to public health expands and orients the horizons of health policy toward primary prevention by tackling structural determinants of health, the establishment of universal systems, and decarbonized social infrastructure that allows all people to thrive in a warming world."
From viral pandemics to heatwaves and food systems, public health is uncontained by borders. For a just transition to a decarbonized and climate-safe world, sacrifice zones cannot simply be offshored to the Global South—they must be comprehensively addressed from root causes to end results. The climate justice movement must plan and advance a comprehensive, Green-New- Deal-style approach to public health. An approach that builds a united constituency behind material improvements for the multiracial working class, while rapidly and justly decarbonizing. Otherwise, we risk doubling down on a future that largely mirrors the present, where only the wealthiest can buy relative wellness in a warming world. Effective, just solutions to public health problems and inequalities require public ownership, democratic control, community self-determination, international solidarity, and full decarbonization – in other words, the remaking of US care and health systems.
A Green New Deal approach to public health expands and orients the horizons of health policy toward primary prevention by tackling structural determinants of health, the establishment of universal systems, and decarbonized social infrastructure that allows all people to thrive in a warming world.