Community health considerations are important parts of ATSDR’s land revitalization activities. As such, through its Brownfields/Land Reuse Health Initiative, ATSDR works to conduct the following activities:
- promote a well-rounded approach to redevelopment,
- include health as an important part of redevelopment,
- grow community resources to promote health,
- measure changes in community health,
- encourage early community involvement in decision making,
- restore and revitalize communities in a way that is fair to all community groups,
- promote relationships among, agencies, partners, and communities,
- improve ways to talk about health and environmental risks.
Comments from ATSDR’s Director of Division of Community Health Investigations
According to Dr. Tina Forrester, ATSDR’s Director of Division of Community Health Investigations , ATSDR’s Brownfield/Land Reuse Health Initiative helps communities incorporate health considerations in land reuse decisions. People can turn vacant or under-used land into places that benefit the whole area. ATSDR works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state and local officials, developers, and communities to include health in these types of projects.
What is a Brownfield or Land Reuse site?
Brownfield sites are defined as "abandoned, idled, or underused industrial and commercial properties where reuse or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived contamination." These sites have received funding from EPA Brownfield Program for redevelopment. (Source: EPA)
Land Reuse sites are defined as "any site formally utilized for commercial and industrial purposes complicated by real or perceived contamination" that has not received funding from the EPA Brownfield Program for redevelopment. (Source: ATSDR)
As part of its land renewal activities, ATSDR promotes many health checks so that people can have healthier neighborhoods and workplaces. Some of these health checks may include:
- Explaining data about chemicals in people and the environment
- Helping people learn more about health risks in their area
- Checking to find out if there are health issues that can be made better through changes in land use, and
- Measuring health factors to find out if land reuse projects make people healthier.
How ATSDR and EPA Can Help Communities
The number of communities that conduct health pilot activities at brownfield and land reuse sites is low, mostly because communities do not understand what types of activities EPA, health departments, or ATSDR can conduct. To help communities learn more about how EPA, health departments, or ATSDR can help, communities should know that:
- ATSDR, working with health departments and EPA, can help more people include community health in brownfield and land reuse projects.
- EPA can award health programs monies through Brownfields awards, and that ATSDR has some limited health pilot awards for brownfield and reuse sites as well.
- ATSDR has free tools to assist communities and their health departments to include health activities as part of their Brownfield and Land Reuse projects. People who work to renew brownfields and other lands can use these tools to learn about health and environmental risks.
- ATSDR and its partners also work to build community resources so that communities themselves can continue to make health part of a well-rounded approach to growth.
- Together, communities, ATSDR, health departments, and EPA can create healthier places for everyone.