Our county is strongest when we all have access to affordable and safe housing, quality education, transportation, health care, and clean air and water. I will be an advocate of all of District 8, including the areas that have been the most left behind. We need to thoughtfully address the inequalities that exist across the District and the County to ensure a healthy and safe community for all.
MICHELLE'S PROMISE TO DISTRICT 8
As District 8’s councilperson, Michelle will use her knowledge of social determinants of health (such as affordable and safe housing, quality education, and a healthy environment including clean air and water) to advance priorities across Allegheny County that strive toward a healthier, more equitable and more prosperous region for all residents. She believes that every child has a right to a safe, thriving community.
In 2019, the Allegheny County Health Department released its Environmental Justice Index. This report indicated that of the top eight environmental justice areas, four neighborhoods are contained within District 8 (Braddock, East Pittsburgh, North Braddock and Rankin). As referenced in the report, “Too often, differences in community infrastructure, geography, and racial composition lead to health inequities. These are often greatest among lower income populations and people of color.” The metrics the report considered included socio-demographic issues, such as race, income and proximity to high density commercial, industrial or traffic areas. In addition, climate change is also a public health crisis. The county must work on a wholistic plan to address climate change to protect our children's future.
There are no shortage of serious issues facing District 8. These include: access to fresh foods, health care, and transportation; poor air quality; lack of economic development opportunities; and living in blighted neighborhoods. A recent study screened children across 15 elementary schools, including those in Gateway and Woodland Hills School Districts. Research findings showed that the overall presence of asthma was 22.5 percent, nearly triple the national rate of 8.5 percent reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study also noted the highest rate of asthma – 26.8 percent – was among African American children in these communities. We have to do better for our children's sake.
The pandemic has also clearly demonstrated issues of inequality across the District and systemic racism. In response, the Black Equity Coalition was formed to focus on the disproportionate impact on the health, well-being, and economic stability of people of color. This is an opportunity for Allegheny County Council to learn from the Coalition’s findings and respond to recommended policy changes accordingly. I commit to doing everything I can to make this happen.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Building A Culture of Health report highlights areas where we should all be concerned about throughout District 8, including:
● Black residents in Allegheny County are less likely to have insurance coverage or maintain a primary care provider; many low-income neighborhoods report a shortage of primary care physicians.
● Urban renewal has displaced older, low-income residents to the outlying suburbs, where access to public transportation and health services is limited.
● Racial disparities exist in educational attainment, a linchpin to higher paying jobs; 17% of black Allegheny County residents hold a bachelor’s degree, compared to 38% of white residents.
● With smoking rates and hazardous air toxins higher in the county than the nation, cancer (along with heart disease) is a leading cause of death in Allegheny County; black men and lower-income people in particular are at risk for cancer.
● Despite an overall decrease between 2008 and 2015, infant mortality rates are almost three times higher among black Allegheny County residents than white.
In addition, Allegheny County Council has an opportunity to advance policies that protect employees such as Paid Sick Leave and address injustices by creating a Civilian Police Review Board. If passed in 2021, it will be critical to ensure communities of color are represented and active participants at the table.
Michelle will be an advocate to all of District 8 residents, including those who live in areas that many believe to have been the most left behind. We need to address the disparities that exist across the District and the County to ensure a healthy, safe and prosperous community for all.