Date of Award

Summer 8-10-2021

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Christine Stauber

Second Advisor

Dr. Dajun Dai

Abstract

A common adage in the field of children’s environmental health is “children are not small adults”. Children’s behavior, physiology, and dependency can increase their risk of and vulnerability to environmental exposures. Screening and web mapping tools like EPA’s EJSCREEN and California’s CalEnviroScreen highlight populated areas where residents may be at an increased risk of poor environmental health outcomes or environmental injustices. These tools provide valuable insight for policy makers, public health professionals, and the public. However, there are currently no screening tools that focus on spatial disparities in children’s environmental health at the local level.

This project sought to address that gap by developing the Children’s Environmental Health Index (CEHI), based on the framework of the World Health Organization’s Urban Health Index. The CEHI is meant to be adapted to specific community concerns, and indicator selection is determined by significance to children’s health as well as data availability.

This project applied the CEHI at the census tract-level in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Because the county is heavily industrialized, environmental health concerns focused on air quality and point-source pollution. Geospatial data was sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau, Environmental Protection Agency, PA Department of Environmental Protection, PA Department of Transportation, and Allegheny County. As expected, analysis was shaped and sometimes limited by data availability and computing resources.

The CEHI web app was designed to be user-friendly and accessible to all audiences. It includes map layers for the CEHI, each indicator, and relevant data such as schools, day cares, and parks. Users can interact with the layers and retrieve areal statistics. The web app serves as a template for organizations who wish to develop their own CEHI. Future applications of the CEHI should explore daytime exposures using school districts, as well as examine maternal and infant health outcomes from the perspective of access and environmental exposure.

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