Monday kicks off the tenth annual Air Quality Awareness Week. An environmental health initiative developed in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this campaign aims to raise public awareness about the direct impact of air quality on individual and community health.
This year’s theme, “Show How You Care About the Air,” promotes four key focus areas including citizen science, asthma and air quality, air quality around the world, and air quality trends. The Air Quality Flag Program is highlighted as a model example of how organizations, including local health departments, can “show they care” and encourage community health when it comes to air quality. Participating organizations display one of five colored flags on a daily basis, indicating varying levels of air pollution. Flag selection is based on alerts received directly from the EPA, and can help better inform individuals to avoid dangers associated with air pollution on a regular basis.
Local health departments can also host and take part in events educating and engaging their communities on air quality’s effect on health. For example, the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County puts on an annual “Clean Air Fair” featuring vendors, exhibitors, and activities emphasizing the value of air quality in creating a healthy living environment.
Various virtual engagement opportunities will also be available, including an EPA/CDC hosted Twitter Chat recognizing both Air Quality Awareness Week on Friday, May 5 at 11 am ET. Health officials can tweet questions, comments, and best practices using the hashtag #AirQualityChat.
NACCHO’s most recent air quality statement should serve as a guiding resource to local health departments when promoting events, materials and information throughout Air Quality Awareness Week. Key points for local health officials to reference include:
- Connect and collaborate with state and local air agencies to broaden the public health preventive outreach and education to improve health outcomes.
- Educate the public about connections between individual lifestyle behaviors and exposure to and production of air pollutants, including the production of greenhouse gases.; and
- Work in conjunction with federal, state and local governments to focus on land use and transportation planning and community design and development activities, as they relate to ambient air quality, to promote and protect the health of communities (e.g., integrating health concepts into the built environment, directing federally funded infrastructure projects to involve state and/or local health officials).