19 August 2016

News from the Human Impact Partners: Research reports and successes!

From the HIP Newsletter, which is worth subscribing to.

Policy Victory! Oakland Says No to Coal, Citing Public Health Concerns

In June, the Oakland City Council voted against a plan to transport coal through a proposed bulk export terminal. A group of public health experts — including our Co-Director Jonathan Heller — released a critical report prior to the vote citing significant health risks of increased emissions of coal dust and diesel exhaust. The report played a key role in continuing public pressure and the final vote.

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney called for racial equity, not just in economic opportunities, but also in health outcomes, stating “It is outrageous to me that when we start talking about jobs for African Americans, for low-wage workers, they’re the dirtiest jobs, the most risky jobs, the jobs that we have to pay for with our bodies and shortened lives.” Developers tried falsely to claim that the city had a choice between jobs or protecting health and the environment, but the coal terminal would bring fewer jobs than the transport of other bulk materials through the port and these other materials pose less of a health risk for Oakland residents.

In addition to health impacts locally in Oakland, public officials were swayed by concerns over the worldwide effects of increased coal use on climate change. Emissions from the coal shipped through the proposed terminal would have constituted 0.6% of the world’s carbon budget. Senator Lori Hancock cited the public health study when she weighed in before the vote, claiming “if this happens, it will turn our state from being a worldwide leader of the growing green economy into the largest West Coast exporter of coal -- a major public health danger and greenhouse gas polluter.” HIP is proud to have contributed to this major policy win with clear public health impacts in Oakland and beyond.

Expanding Access to Preschool: Cincinnati’s Fork in the Road

HIP and our partners with the AMOS Project are excited to release The Health and Equity Impacts of Expanded Access to Preschool: Cincinnati’s Fork in the Road. The report set out to answer the question: How will expanding access to preschool affect the health and well-being of children, families, and other residents of Cincinnati?

Currently nearly half of Cincinnati’s children are starting from a disadvantage on their first day of kindergarten. The study shows that:
  • Children who have access to preschool could experience fewer challenges in school, leading to higher graduation rates and decreased crime rates.
  • Families could experience decreased parenting stress, child abuse, and neglect.
  • Cincinnati could benefit from more workers who are able to find employment at higher wages.
In conclusion: expanding access to preschool would improve the health of Cincinnati’s children and families, making Cincinnati a healthier, wealthier and more equitable city.

Specific recommendations from the report include: 
  1. Expand access to high-quality preschool to all children in Cincinnati
  2. Prioritize to reach those most in need, such as children living in poverty
  3. Assure high-quality preschools and teachers through adherence to preschool program training features that research has proven to be successful
  4. Utilize a trauma-informed approach to discipline that incorporates an understanding of the source of the behavior problem, in preschool and beyond, rather than zero-tolerance policies such as suspensions and expulsions
  5. Assure that high-quality preschools are geographically distributed throughout the city
For more information, you can read the following HIA documents:  

Scheduling Away Our Health

HIP, The Center for Popular Democracy, and Working Washington released Scheduling Away Our Health: How Unpredictable Work Hours Affect Health and Well-being, a research report analyzing how unpredictable work schedules affect the physical and mental health of workers and their families. As part of this work, we conducted a focus group in Seattle, learning how erratic schedules lead to income instability and stress for low-wage workers:

“There are days I can work a long day and they’ll only schedule me 4 hours as opposed to 8 hours. And so that’s getting kind of scary when it gets down to the wire, when I really don’t have any money and I don’t know if you’re going to schedule me for 15 hours this week or 4 hours. It’s just really hard to deal with.” – Holly, retail worker

The report also includes analysis of the 2014 General Social Survey. We found that workers with less advance notice of their schedules report worse overall health and more frequent mental health problems.

The report recommends the following, to help improve the health of these workers:
  • The ability to obtain advanced scheduling of 2-3 weeks
  • The right to rest 11 hours between shifts
  • The right to request scheduling accommodations
  • The right to have stable hours week-to-week

Connecting the Dots to Health: LACDPH Evaluation Report 

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health hired HIP to conduct an external evaluation of two of its recently completed Rapid Health Impact Assessments (HIAs). The goal was to learn lessons from past HIAs and inform the work of the Health Impact Evaluation Center within the LACDPH.

Our report focused on HIAs for the following two programs:
  • Parks After Dark (PAD) — a comprehensive, cross-sector collaboration program designed to prevent violence and promote healthy and active living in parks.
  • Second Chance Women’s Re-Entry Court (WRC) — a specialized court-based jail diversion program that provides mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, and other social support services.

The evaluation found that both of these HIAs:
  • Helped increase local commitments to program funding
  • Found impacts on health determinants
  • Highlighted programs’ relationship to priority county topics
  • Strengthened existing and fostered new collaborations among government agencies
  • Helped change institutional mindsets and increase focus on health

You can access the executive summary and full report to read our full set of findings and recommendations from this project.

Public Health Departments in Criminal Justice Reform

“We can all agree that mass incarceration is a public health problem.” – interview participant from the California Department of Public Health

How can public health departments play a more significant role in criminal justice reform? With support from The California Endowment, we conducted focus groups and interviews with representatives from more than 20 local and state public health departments in California. We asked them about their current work related to criminal justice and what stops them from doing more. Our report — Public Health Departments in California and Criminal Justice System Reform:  Successes, Barriers, and Recommendations for Action — summarizes our findings and provides a set of recommendations for public health departments wanting to get more involved in criminal justice reform.