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Pierce County Environmental Health Trends Discussed

March 31, 2010

Tacoma - The first lecture in the spring Environmental Science Seminar series at the University of Washington Tacoma will feature an examination of environmental health trends revealed by data in the recently released Pierce County Environmental Health Trends 2008 report, issued by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

The seminar, "Environmental Health Data: Do We Believe It When We See It - or See It When We Believe It?" commemorates National Public Health Week and focuses on how we use the report to better understand environmental conditions around us and their impact on our health.

National Public Health Week has been observed each April since 1995, with the goal of protecting and improving the nation's health. This year's theme, "A Healthier America: One Community at a Time," focuses on the role communities play in supporting national health.

To complete the report, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department assembled six workgroups, each focusing on one indicator: air, water, food, land use, waste, and disease from animals. Workgroup members identified a set of 21 environmental conditions thought to have an impact on health and presented information related to each indicator.

Janet Primomo, professor of nursing at University of Washington Tacoma, is coordinating the lecture. Primomo is a member of Clean Air for Kids, a community partnership that includes the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The indicators of clean air in the report are of particular importance to her work on asthma prevention in the community.

"The environmental health model developed by the work groups that was used to organize information for each indicator outlines very well what we as nurses and public health professionals do," she says. "It is necessary to identify potential hazards and possible protective factors that have associated indicators and actions that can be taken at the personal or policy level to improve health."

Project participants charged with creating the report attempted to compile and present data in a way that is useful to the broadest possible cross-section of individuals and organizations.

Marianne Seifert, a health promotion specialist with Pierce County Health Department, says, "One of the challenges is making sure we're not just preaching to the choir, that information is useful to individuals and organizations with a wide range of belief systems and values."

To explore this challenge, she says, she'll lead the discussion in a way that allows individuals and organizations to question the role personal beliefs and data play in making personal and public policy decisions. She says the most important question is, "Does this report help us all better understand environmental conditions around us and what we could do to improve them?"

Joanne Buselmeier, finance and administration manager with Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, will also appear. Buselmeier will describe how the indicators are useful to the Tacoma Alliance for Clean Technology and Sustainability in its work with local businesses.

The event is scheduled for April 5, 12:30-1:30 p.m., in Science 309 on the UW Tacoma campus. Free and open to the public, no registration is needed. The lecture is sponsored by UW Tacoma's Environmental Science program and Nursing program.

For information contact Janet Primomo at jprimomo@u.washington.edu. Learn more about the Health Department's research.

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