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Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) 2015 Milestones and Highlights

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21, 2015

By Rebecca Ruggles, Director, Maryland Environmental Health Network

2015 has been another busy and productive year for the Maryland Environmental Health Network. We are pleased to report on several new environmental protections for human health and to share a few milestones from the year.

Held statewide workshop for peer learning on Green Cleaning in Maryland school districts

MdEHN worked to improve the implementation of Maryland’s 2012 law mandating that toxic cleaning products be phased out of use in Maryland public schools. We spearheaded the evaluation of school district policies, finding that the majority in need of technical assistance. We educated Maryland State Department of Education stakeholders on the need and identified local leaders in implementation of "Green Cleaning”.

This became the platform for a November peer-to-peer learning exchange between 63 school district employees at 21 of Maryland’s 24 public school districts. The event kicked off a Green Cleaning Community of Practice in Maryland, connecting experts and experienced professionals with those still struggling with implementation of the basics. We now see greater stakeholder commitment to phasing out toxics in schools and the promise of improved health conditions in schools all over the state.

Achieved a 2.5 year moratorium on fracking based on the science

With a diverse coalition of activists from across the state, MdEHN helped pass Maryland’s moratorium on drilling for natural gas in Western Maryland. The case for a moratorium was enhanced by our analysis of the public health threats and by our continued tracking of emerging research that indicates no safe methods have yet been demonstrated by industry. We helped start a new group called Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland, dedicated to assuring that emerging scientific studies and analysis of health effects from the gas industry are brought to the attention of the Governor and other policy-makers.

Partnered with the Maryland Public Health Association to build a corps of public health advocates

About 20 Maryland legislators attended a reception in Annapolis last winter where environmental health and public health advocates joined forces to talk to state legislators and learn about opportunities to advance health in Maryland. MdEHN helps lead the advocacy committee of the Maryland Public Health Association and was instrumental in the design and execution of a well-attended MdPHA annual meeting in September where speakers included Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen and UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski.

Examined the role of Environmental Health in the death of Freddie Gray

MdEHN held a network meeting in August to explore and illuminate how Baltimore city children are put at risk by environmental factors. Building from the tragedy of Freddie Gray’s death, we examined the role that lead poisoning may have played in his life, and presented the array of pollution and other environmental hazards that plague the neighborhoods where he grew up.

Based on demographic and other data from US EPA Environmental Justice software (EJ Screen), we added factors to the picture, such as air pollution, food deserts, and vacant homes, and engaged experts and health advocates in the examination of the multiple health risks that may have contributed to the trajectory of Freddie Gray’s life. We challenged our network to help us promote health protections that will minimize or eliminate these threats to city children, such as reduced brain development, lung function, and cognitive development.

Served on state agency work groups to provide environmental health perspective

MdEHN staff were tapped in 2015 to serve on state work groups and also continued our service to several state commissions. One example: the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Cumulative Impacts work group resumed its deliberations in the summer of 2015, to address the disproportionate burden of pollution in low income and communities of color. The focus this year has been on improving community engagement for a small set of air pollution permits, as a starting point for change.

Each member of our staff also served on an on-going work group of the Maryland Climate Change Commission: the Mitigation work group; the Adaptation work group; and the Education, Communications and Outreach work group. These efforts accelerate the transition to clean energy sources which will provide significant health benefits to Marylanders as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Helped hospital administrators blend their Community Benefit responsibilities with environmental health and sustainability

As an active participant in the Health Care Sustainability Leadership Council, MdEHN worked with hospital administrators and green team leaders to explore how they can advance environmental health protections for their patients. In some cases, the steps hospitals take to be better environmental stewards can qualify to be counted towards their IRS responsibility to deliver Community Benefit.

Our paper on this topic, jointly published with the Maryland Hospitals for Healthy Environments, details such opportunities and provides examples from Maryland hospitals. Hospital administrators also shared with us their concerns about the human, organizational, and financial costs of superbugs, which in part come from antibiotic resistance bred by overuse of medically important antibiotics in factory farming. In 2016 we will be working on steps to address this critical threat to human health.

MdEHN looks forward to the work of 2016, which promises to bring further protections for human health, through pollution controls, the transition to healthy renewable energy, and the growth of green practices in schools.

Allison Rich and Rebecca Rehr join me in wishing everyone Happy Holidays and a very healthy New Year!

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Tags:  January 2016 Members' Memo  Mdehn 

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Happy Earth Day!

Posted By Celeste Amato, Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 22, 2015

By Celeste Amato, ABAG President

Happy Earth Day!

This annual day dedicated to supporting the environment was first organized in 1970 and is now celebrated in more than 192 countries.

Earth Day has increased awareness of environmental issues and elevated concern for the health of our planet. Many U.S. foundations, businesses, and individual givers now focus funding on the environment. In fact, according to a recent Environmental Grantmakers Association report, in 2011, estimated funding to environmental issues by U.S. foundations reached an all-time high of $2.8 billion.

And, here in Maryland, our own funding community has done the same:

ABAG Project, the Maryland Environmental Health Network, convenes diverse stakeholders in the fields of health and environmental advocacy, research, and community activism, to support cross-sector education, dialogue and action that results in better protection of both human health and the environment. The project envisions a Maryland where children and adults enjoy clean food, air and water, and benefit from safe environments in their homes, schools and communities.

ABAG’s Green Funders Affinity Group gathers regularly to explore topics related to community greening, sustainability, and environmental protection. These environmental discussions cross all sectors, impacting community development, human health, and economic welfare.

The Maryland 2015 Legislative Session met with newly elected lawmakers, including a new Governor, and an ambitious environmental agenda in Annapolis. On April 29 ABAG’s Green Funders will host a Legislative Wrap-Up, featuring reports from Dru Schmidt-Perkins of 1000 Friends of Maryland, and Karla Raettig of Maryland League of Conservation Voters, on their observations and the outcomes of major environmental campaigns. Representatives from Blue Water Baltimore and the Maryland Environmental Health Network will also bring their perspectives to the program. All ABAG members are welcome.

Rebecca Ruggles, our ABAG staff member who consults to the Green Funders and directs MdEHN says, "The synergy between funders and environmental advocates always impresses me. We are lucky to have philanthropic leadership that is helping to shape everything from Baltimore and Maryland's climate action planning, to the state's food system, to broad regional support for addressing polluted run-off and cleaning up the Bay."

Tags:  Earth Day  Green Funders  Maryland Environmental Health Network  May 2015 Members Memo  MdEHN 

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Maryland Environmental Health Network Issues Two New Publications

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Friday, March 13, 2015

March 13, 2015

Rebecca Ruggles, Director, Maryland Environmental Health Network

One of the benefits of being an ABAG sponsored project is observing different techniques of change management used by the funding community. Commissioning timely reports is one of them.

At the Maryland Environmental Health Network, we’ve issued two new publications in the past four months. Last November, we came out with an analysis of how energy policy relates to public health. Energy and Health in Maryland: A Briefing for Health Advocates proved to be a useful tool to a wider range of our partners than we expected, from the League of Women Voters to the Baltimore City Energy Office.

This month, MdEHN released a report in collaboration with Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (MDH2E), titled Maryland Hospitals at the Intersection of Environmental Health, Sustainability, and Community Benefit.Together, MdEHN and MDH2E hope this analysis will assist Maryland hospitals to deliver a wide range of community benefits that also support sustainability and environmental health.

Co-authored by Joan Plisko and Dawn Cannon of MDH2E, the report provides examples of how Maryland hospitals are leading with environmental health and sustainability programs. Many of these qualify for recognition under IRS requirements for non-profit hospitals to deliver community benefits.

Maryland Hospitals have shifted to more sustainable practices in waste management, food purchasing, energy efficiency, and toxics reduction. Schools, faith communities, and other community-based organizations in a hospital’s catchment area can benefit from learning about these effective and healthy practices. When hospitals share this expertise outside their own walls, they get credit for delivering community benefits and contribute to the health of local communities.

MdEHN’s report Energy & Health in Maryland: A Briefing for Health Advocates created opportunities to engage legislators in Annapolis on the health benefits of moving Maryland to more renewable clean energy. Although the report’s framework is unconventional, it has proven thought-provoking and useful.

We know this new report on hospital community benefit programs will also be useful in engaging hospital executives in extending their expertise beyond hospital walls. ABAG members may also find the report interesting, if they fund hospital capital projects, serve as hospital trustees, work on community health, or are otherwise engaged with these critical anchor institutions.

The Maryland Environmental Health Network convenes diverse stakeholders in the fields of health and environmental advocacy, research, and community activism, to support cross-sector education, dialogue and action that results in better protection of both human health and the environment. MdEHN is a project housed at the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG).

Tags:  environment  March 2015 Members' Memo  Maryland Environmental Health Network  MdEHN 

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Maryland Nonprofits 2015 Legislative Preview

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Monday, January 5, 2015
January 5, 2015
 
By Adam Donaldson, ABAG Member Services Director
 
 
Whether you can commit to the whole day or not, this annual event is the best opportunity to demonstrate our collective commitment to the charitable sector and to learn about key issues for nonprofit organizations in the upcoming Maryland General Assembly.
 
During the special afternoon dialogue on Public Health Equity, I am excited to announce the participation of the Maryland Environmental Health Network, a project housed here at the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.

Here's a first-hand look at the highlights for the 2015 Legislative Preview on January 12th at the Howard County Conservancy in Woodstock, MD.
 
Space is limited, You can register here

Tags:  Legislative  Maryland Nonprofits  MdeHN  Public Policy 

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Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) 2014 Milestones & Highlights

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, December 31, 2014
December 31, 2014
 
By Rebecca Ruggles, Director, Maryland Environmental Health Network
 
We've had a busy and successful year in 2014 and are pleased to share MdEHN's 2014 Milestones & Highlights:

Published Energy & Health in Maryland: A Briefing for Health Advocates.

• This report makes that case that just as gun violence and food systems entered the domain of public health, so now must energy policy. Much air pollution is generated by dirty energy sources and the health consequences of air pollution are significant. On the up side, when a dirty power plant closes or vehicle fuel standards improve, some health effects are reduced immediately. The report is being used to support health advocates in speaking out for clean renewable energy

Held September 2014 Symposium on Public Health & the Marcellus Shale in Maryland.

• MdEHN convened 40 public health and environmental health experts to review the Maryland public health study of the Marcellus Shale and make recommendations to Maryland policy-makers. Their consensus: Maryland should not proceed with "fracking” at this time. Three months later, Governor Cuomo reached a similar conclusion and banned fracking in New York State. Working from the same science, Governor O’Malley approved drilling regulations and Governor-elect Hogan stated his intent to issue permits. A moratorium bill will be introduced in the 2015 legislative session. The work of the September Symposium will be a valuable resource in the debates of 2015.

Established accountability for reducing children’s toxic exposures under the new Maryland Green Cleaning in Schools Mandate.

• 2012 law mandates that all Maryland school districts establish green cleaning policies and practices to reduce student exposure to toxic cleaning chemicals. In Spring 2014, MdEHN requested that MSDE establish accountability for implementation of the law, triggering a request for all districts to submit their policies. MdEHN recruited a team of University of MD public health grad students to evaluate 16 of 24 school district policies. We look forward to working with MSDE and Maryland school districts in 2015 to help all districts comply and share their best practices.
 
Introduced environmental health advocacy issues to hospital green team leaders, public health professionals and leaders in Maryland nonprofit agencies.

• MdEHN enjoyed working with our partners at the Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, the Maryland Public Health Associations, and Maryland Nonprofits to introduce environmental health issues to health advocates from many professional walks of life. We co-sponsored a series of conversations about health equity in Maryland, and helped shape the annual meetings and forums of our partners to include environmental health and advocacy issues.

Served on state and national Boards and councils.

• MdEHN Director Rebecca Ruggles was named to the Board of the Environmental Integrity Project.
• Rebecca Ruggles served on MDE's Cumulative Impacts Working Group
• Rebecca Rehr, MdEHN Public Health Advocacy Coordinator, was named a Commissioner on the Maryland Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities Commission.
• Allison Rich, MdEHN Children's EH Specialist, joined the education committee of the national group Children's Environmental Health Network

All of us at the Maryland Environmental Health Network wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

The Maryland Environmental Health Network convenes diverse stakeholders in the fields of health and environmental advocacy, research, and community activism, to support cross-sector education, dialogue and action that results in better protection of both human health and the environment. MdEHN is a project housed at the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG).


Tags:  Maryland Environmental Health Network  mdehn 

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Healthier and Greener Communities

Posted By Allison Rich, Tuesday, July 1, 2014
July 1, 2014
 
By Allison Rich 
Children's Health Specialist, Maryland Environmental Health Network

As the Children’s Environmental Health Specialist for the Maryland Environmental Health Network I feel so honored to participate in and learn about such a rich array of projects to create healthier and greener communities in Baltimore.

For instance, this week Baltimore City Schools’ presented its first ever training for custodians on their role in creating sustainable schools. Custodians learned about recycling and energy conservation but the main focus was on implementing the green cleaning in schools law. In 2012, the General Assembly enacted the law and school districts throughout the state are expected to comply by July 2014.

Green cleaning in schools is imperative to protecting children’s health and to reducing rates of asthma in Maryland. According to the EPA, the ingredients found in one out of every three commercial cleaning products are potentially harmful to human health and contribute to organ damage, asthma and other respiratory ailments, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. To drive this point home, City Schools’ Green Schools Coordinator collaborated with staff from Baltimore City Health Dept.’s Community Asthma Program, Green Seal, and the Building Wellness Institute.

Custodians walked away from the training with a plethora of tools for protecting students and school staff!

Another exciting event this month was Greenscape: Baltimore City’s Annual Youth Sustainability summit. GreenScape is a project of the Student Environmental Leadership Action Team (SELAT), in partnership with the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the Baltimore Community Foundation, and with support from Constellation, an Exelon company.

Over 400 students, families, and environmental education enthusiasts filled the Aquarium to share innovative projects funded through the Green, Healthy, Smart Challenges. The Greater Baltimore Asthma Alliance, in partnership with MdEHN, gave away 200 kits with recipe cards and ingredients to make low-cost green cleaning products at home. It was amazing to see so many students sampling healthy foods, learning about watershed protection, and brainstorming their role in creating a greener Baltimore. Over 10 local businesses donated amazing raffle prizes (including a free bike) to show the students how valuable their work is!

These events only skim the surface of initiatives that foster collaboration across sectors with the end goal of creating stronger environmental health protections for children in Baltimore and throughout the state.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  July/August 2014 Members' Memo  Maryland Environmental Health Network  mdehn 

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ABAG Project Director Enjoys the View

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014
February 19, 2014
 
By Rebecca Ruggles
Director, Maryland Environmental Health Network
Coordinator, ABAG Green Funders Affinity Group

Sometimes I feel I have the catbird seat! Being a staff member and project director at the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG) gives me the privilege of participating in, and learning about, such a rich array of projects, campaigns, and studies. This past month has been particularly rewarding.

Wearing my two hats of directing the Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) and supporting the ABAG Green Funders affinity group, I get a great view of philanthropy’s impact on some of the most compelling challenges of our region, and - I would say - of our times.

For instance, in the last few weeks I’ve sat in on a Health Funders program on Baltimore’s major advances in improving birth outcomes, co-hosted an Annapolis reception for legislators focused on public health and environmental health issues, listened as affinity group leaders share strategies and topics, helped the Green Funders set their program agenda for the coming year, and participated in the work of the Climate Communications Consortium of Maryland.

This latter project, the brainchild of Stuart Clarke and the Town Creek Foundation, is tackling a fascinating challenge - how to get the message out across Maryland that "over 97% of climate scientists agree that human caused Climate Change is happening”.
 
The project seeks to convey that while Marylanders are at significant risk, there are many solutions for making our state more resilient in the face of sea level rise, extreme weather, and other threats.

The list does not end there. The Abell Foundation published a report last week about opportunities in Baltimore to build community-owned renewable energy projects. The report documents the potential to make Baltimore more resilient in the face of major power outages, with low income residents benefitting in the process.
 
It the should be of interest to all ABAG members who invest in community and economic development, work on safety-net issues and/or are concerned about poverty and inequity.

Also on the list of recent intellectual stimulants funded by ABAG members Abell, Campbell, and Bancroft is a Shale Gas Risk Assessment study released last week by Chesapeake Climate Action Network. It fills in a gap in the state’s analysis of risks from future shale gas drilling in Western Maryland. That report offers an independent risk assessment from a leading international environmental consulting group responsible for evaluating fracking risks for the European Commission’s continent-wide regulatory review.

Finally, I’ll close with our Maryland Environmental Health Network annual meeting last month. Our session for MdEHN partners, stakeholders, and funders took place in the midst of a snow day - and over 40 people showed up!
 
MdEHN Coordinator Allison Rich presented the 2013 accomplishments by MdEHN and our partners, and the list made us all proud. I know that our community and academic partners particularly appreciate the active role played in our MdEHN meetings by foundation staff from the Abell, Hilda & Jacob Blaustein, Zanvyl & Isabelle Krieger, and Town Creek Foundations.

Rebecca Ruggles directs the Maryland Environmental Health Network and serves as staff coordinator for the Green Funders affinity group at ABAG.

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  affinity groups  Green Funders  MdEHN 

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MdEHN - Climate Hero

Posted By Allison Rich, Monday, November 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

November 24, 2013 

By Allison Rich, 

Children's Environemntal Health Specialist, The Maryland Environmental Health Network

The Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) received recognition last week as a Climate Hero from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). The award ceremony was part of the Baltimore stop on CCAN’s Crossroads Tour. Over 230 people attended the program at MICA, to hear how the plan to export fracked gas out of Cove Point in southern Maryland threatens our environment and health, while renewable energy alternatives protect both and are economically beneficial as well.

Rebecca Ruggles, Director of MdEHN said, "Recognition from CCAN is a high compliment. Climate change is a huge threat to human health and it’s closely related to air pollution which is a major cause of preventable illness and premature death.” Rebecca shared the stage with CCAN founder Mike Tidwell and Lynn Heller of the Abell Foundation, who spoke about her role in leading Baltimore City’s Climate Action Plan work group.

For the past year, MdEHN has worked on a range of energy related issues that impact the health of Marylanders. With our partners, the Chesapeake Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, MdEHN helped insure that health implications of fracking will be well researched as part of Maryland’s Marcellus Shale Commission study process.

Maryland is the first state to research the public health implications of unconventional drilling practices by the natural gas industry, before drilling takes place.

With support from a BGE Green Grant, MdEHN’s November meeting focused on the health implications of energy choices in Maryland and ways health advocates can promote healthy energy policy. Past meeting topics focused on environmental factors that impact air quality and human health. Resources from past Network meetings are available here.

The Maryland Environmental Health Network is a project of ABAG, started with leadership and support from the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Foundation. Additional funders supporting the Network and its publications are: the Zanvyl & Isabelle Krieger Fund, the Town Creek Foundation, the Abell Foundation and The Keith Campbell Foundation.

At our September meeting in Brooklyn/Curtis Bay, MdEHN helped connect environmental health researchers, state policy-makers, the Filbert Street Garden, and a student led advocacy group called Free Your Voice. As someone who has worked with many student groups, I am so impressed with these young people. They are mounting a campaign to stop the incinerator that would be less than a mile from their school . Check out the video these students made about the impact of industrial pollution on their neighborhood: http://vimeo.com/74501368

MdEHN will publish a report on the relationship between Maryland’s health status and air pollution problems in early 2014. Most air pollution is linked to sources that also produce greenhouse gases, so solutions such as renewable energy development are good for both health and the climate. That’s the good news – a health lens highlights policy solutions that will pay off on multiple levels.

# The Maryland Environmental Health Network convenes diverse stakeholders in the fields of health and environmental advocacy, research, and community activism, to support cross-sector dialogue and action that results in better protection of both human health and the environment. www.mdehn.org MdEHN is a project of The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers www.abagrantmakers.org

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Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  environmental health  Maryland Environmental Health Network  Mdehn  November 2013 Members' Memo 

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School Greening in Baltimore City

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Updated: Monday, July 8, 2013

June 26, 2013 

By Rebecca Ruggles, Director, Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) 

School greening is a national movement - and Baltimore is in the vanguard.

The Maryland Environmental Health Network worked with the Baltimore Sustainability Commission and staff of the Office of Sustainability to document the extent of recent investments in greening Baltimore public schools in the new report, "School Greening in Baltimore City."

The results are impressive.

We found an investment of about $2.5 million being made over the last two and a half years, and about 60% of City Schools have participated in school greening programs or practices of some kind.

What benefits come with adopting green practices in schools? We looked at the research and found a growing body of evidence documenting positive impacts on operating costs, academic outcomes, and school climate.

The benefits of green school practices are now well established and range from reductions in greenhouse gases emissions and energy cost savings, to improved student test scores and higher teacher and student retention. Of course, as a group dedicated to Environmental Health, we are also keen on the protections for children’s health that can accompany a greener school environment.

Our report was authored by Allison Rich, MdEHN's Children's Environmental Health Specialist.

She compiled data from 35 sources, and examined three specific questions:

  • What investment has been made to date in green practices in Baltimore City public schools and by whom?
  • How are academic and operational goals furthered by this investment?
  • Why should this investment be protected – and enhanced – as City Schools launches its 10 year plan for 21st Century Schools?

School greening activities engage students, teachers and families in new ways, and have been an important part of creating and sustaining the new wave of achievement, pride, and advocacy for Baltimore’s public schools.

Jamie Baxter, Program Director at The Chesapeake Bay Trust, commented: "So many other funders and supporters are involved. The Trust has supported schools with grants for environmental ed and restoration mini-grants. Its great to see that Baltimore City schools have been resourceful in tapping such varied sources of funding and support."

Interested in learning more? You can download and read the report here.

________________________________________________________

Rebecca Ruggles in the Director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) which convenes diverse stakeholders in the fields of health and environmental advocacy, research, and community activism, to support cross-sector dialogue and action that results in better protection of both human health and the environment. This report is a publication of the MdEHN and was prepared by Allison Rich, Children's Environmental Health Specialist, with assistance from Rebecca Ruggles The Maryland Environmental Health Network is a project of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG).


 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  ABAG Project  ABAG's Eye on Philanthropy  Adventures in Philanthropy  Environment  Green  Green Funders  July/August 2013 Members' Memo  Maryland Environmental Health Network  MdEHN 

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Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN)

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18, 2013

By Rebecca Ruggles
Consultant, The Green Funders Affinity Group, Director, Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN)

ABAG is hosting a new project these days. If you check the project tab on our website, you’ll see the Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) has been added. It was already impressive list: the Baltimore Neighborhood Collaborative, the Baltimore Integration Partnership, the Maryland Community Foundation Association, and the Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative.

I’m the Director of MdEHN, a project that grew out of my work with the Green Funders, an ABAG affinity group focused on the environment, sustainability and community greening. Betsy Ringel and Lara Hall at the Blaustein Philanthropic Group, and Margie Roswell with the affiliated Roswell Family Fund, were instrumental in educating me about how environment and human health are linked.

With Blaustein Philanthropic Group support, and former ABAG President Betsy Nelson’s blessing, we launched an exploratory project in the winter of 2012. We wanted to find out if there was a need for a forum to discuss and take action on environmental health issues in Maryland.

The answer came back "Yes” in the form of robust attendance at our monthly meetings, and the almost instant formation of a strong Steering group representing health professions, consumer groups, health advocates, and Maryland based organizations addressing aspects of environmental health.

By spring of 2012, we morphed into the Maryland Environmental Health Network. We began working on our first publication over the summer. We hired a second staff member in the fall, and became a formally sponsored ABAG project by the end of 2012.

As our work has expanded and taken on a life of its own, I’ve been fascinated by how our four funders have each contributed to filling out our agenda in a way that mirrors the concerns of the organizations and professionals who have joined the Network.

The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation gave us a firm focus on toxics (including both chemicals in consumer products and pesticides). The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund added an emphasis on how child welfare is linked to environmental factors.

The Abell Foundation funded our Children’s Environmental Health Specialist who focuses on enhancing environmental health education in City Schools. And the Town Creek Foundation pushed us to think about advocacy and to bring our health perspective to bear on a range of statewide environmental issues. Town Creek also helped us publish our Children’s’ Environmental Health Progress Report, which has proven to be a valuable tool for both policy discussions and outreach.

Without any one of these funders, MdEHN would be a different project – or perhaps not be happening at all.

We’re excited to be officially a member of the ABAG family this year and look forward to what’s ahead in 2013.


Tags:  Environment  Eye on Philanthropy  March 2013 Members' Memo  MdEHN 

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