Safeguarding Public Health
Healthy homes, clean air and water, and vibrant thriving communities are pieces of the vision that drives MEC’s work to establish and maintain strong health protections for Michiganders. Working in coalitions vast and small, MEC is helping leverage smart, impactful policies that protect and enhance the health of Michiganders from the Lake Superior shores to the streets of the Motor City.
$1.25 million secured for lead safe housing
A relentless, multi-year effort by MEC and the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Housing (MIALSH) secured $1.25 million in funding from the Michigan Legislature in 2013 to stop lead hazards from poisoning children in their own homes.
The funding will have a direct impact. Removing lead paint and other dangers ensures that fewer children will suffer lifelong disabilities from lead ingestion, which can permanently lower IQ, damage reproductive and nervous systems, and contribute to aggression and a higher rate of incarceration.
The allocation followed an all-out effort that included extensive legislative engagement; a Capitol Day with constituents from key districts visiting their lawmakers; presentations before lead professionals and small businesses; soliciting support from landlords; discussions with the governor’s staff; and coordination with the Department of Community Health (DCH). MEC also helped generate public testimony during budget hearings, and letters and calls from coalition members to lawmakers as key votes approached.
The coalition secured support from both political parties and from all geographic areas of the state to ensure passage and lay a strong foundation for continued funding in coming years.
Reducing air pollution
MEC is a founding member of the new MI Air MI Health Coalition, which launched in 2013 and is the only coalition in the state working on outdoor air quality as it relates to asthma, cardiovascular disease and other health impacts.
MI Air MI Health engages health professionals as messengers to tell policymakers of the profound and disturbing link between air pollution and poor health. Using the “white coats” as trusted messengers, the goal is to generate strong public health policies that reduce airborne pollutants, move Michigan toward clean renewable energy sources, and reign in the increased medical and societal costs of dirty and unhealthy air.
Collaborating with DNR for healthier state park concessions
Working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, MEC laid the groundwork for an ongoing analysis of the health of state park food offerings through a comprehensive on-the-ground survey. The State Park Baseline Food Assessment surveyed visitors and analyzed concessions to recommend and establish healthier options that would be welcomed by park visitors and still be profitable for vendors.
With obesity as a top public health concern identified by Gov. Rick Snyder and state health experts, MEC is helping Michigan put its money—almost literally—where its mouth is and have our state parks set a positive example.
Coordinating green health care conference
More than 150 hospital and other health care professionals convened in Detroit’s Greektown in the fall of 2013 for the Michigan Green Healthcare Conference. MEC was integral in coordinating the event and agreed to be conference planning chair because hospitals are some of our largest employers. They are top users of energy and purchasers of food, cleaning supplies, furnishings and equipment. Helping educate them about facility management practices and sustainable, healthy and cost-effective choices can have far-reaching ripple effects on patients, employees and communities.
Recent health policy work also includes:
- Helping organize the Mid Michigan Asthma Coalition’s spring and fall health fairs. The events target communities of color with high asthma hospitalization rates.
- Serving as the only environmental representative in the state’s air exemptions rules process. That process looked at opening up air pollution permit exemptions to small scale emitters. This process allowed polluters to sidestep the traditional permit process in certain situations. MEC pushed for less toxic emissions, lower pollution levels, protection of residential areas and stricter reporting.
- As a key player in the Detroit Lead Partnership, MEC helps remove barriers to making all Detroit homes lead safe and represents the coalition during Lansing policy debates.
- Working through the Michigan Public Service Commission to put lead-hazard homes at the top of the list for energy efficiency improvements and window replacements. Ultimately no funds were found but relationship-building and education on lead poisoning is something that will leverage success in the future.
- Engagement through the Green and Healthy Home Collaborative in Detroit to help provide education about providing safe and healthy homes to young families. The collaborative helped marshal the resources of the construction industry, public health advocates, landlords, local non-profits, service providers, the academic community and others.
Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Detroit – Wayne County reduces housing-related health risks
No one would choose to live in a home poisoned with lead. But unless you know what to look for, the risk can be invisible. MEC member group CLEARCorps/Detroit makes those risks visible, educating families about the signs and dangers of lead poisoning and abating lead hazards from homes in Detroit.
CLEARCorps/Detroit and Michigan Environmental Council are among the partners working together in the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Detroit - Wayne County. The mission of GHHI Detroit-Wayne County is to reduce housing-related health risks to increase the quality of life for children and families in Detroit and Wayne County. This mission is pursued by adapting houses to reduce risks and make them more energy efficient as well as through creating safe and healthy homes standards through policy change, legal enforcement and advocacy.
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