Health Leaders Lobby for Change

Photo Credit: The Natural Step Canada cc

The Ecology Center's Health Leaders Fellowship program, which launched in May 2014, is about to graduate its first ever cohort. These dedicated healthcare professionals, focusing on food, toxics, or climate issues, have spent the past year developing into change-makers within the healthcare industry and beyond. This first cohort is made up of individuals from around Michigan at varying points in their careers. They are doctors, nurses, and public health students, professionals, and retirees on the verge of great things with a legacy behind and before them.

Through the Health Leaders Fellowship these health professionals gain a deeper understanding of critical environmental health issues as well as the tools necessary to educate their patients and advocate for change within their institution and in the public policy arena. Vulnerable populations--and everyday citizens--need trusted voices to speak on the importance of healthy and sustainable first foods for infants and children, the dangers of toxic chemicals on individual health, and the ways simple changes in our energy choices can reduce the prevalence of diseases like asthma and cancer. The Health Leaders Fellows are those trusted voices and now they are equipped to share their knowledge with policy-makers.

Fellows receive issue-specific training on the links between human health and environmental concerns. After learning about the harmful effects of an unsustainable food systems, toxic products, and dirty energy generation they then learn how to create lasting change.  Fellows gain experience talking to policy makers in Lansing, greening their healthcare institutions, and working with the media though a series of hands-on activities.

Right now the first cohort of Fellows are wrapping up their fellowship year by completing guided practicums with Ecology Center staff. Through these practicums the fellows tackle real world problems and use their new knowledge and skills to influence decision makers. One group is spearheading an effort to remove toxic flame retardants from furniture in their hospitals. Another is emphasizing the public health dangers of burning coal and lobbying to update Michigan’s energy policy to further increase renewable energy production and the usage of energy efficiency measures. Still others are focusing on getting their hospitals to purchase meat and poultry that is raised without antibiotics to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance.

This remarkable first cohort will complete the fellowship on April 11, 2015, when they present their practicum projects to a small audience. Please watch the April edition of EcoLink for a story covering the graduation of the initial group and learn about our incoming class of Fellows who just started the program on March 13th!