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City of Houston kicks-off Houston InspiraPublic Health Storytelling Campaign funded by Environmental Protection Agency Grant

HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner and environmental justice representatives kicked-off the “Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira,” public health storytelling campaign today at the Houston Climate Justice Museum and Cultural Center in Second Ward.

In October 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the City of Houston a $200,000 grant to create and launch a public health campaign to engage environmental organizations, artists, and storytellers to inspire awareness and action to improve health and safety outcomes.

The campaign is aimed at educating people and improving lives in five of the Complete Communities: Acres Homes, Alief/Westwood, Kashmere Gardens, Near Northside, and Second Ward.

“I am optimistic and excited about this initiative that will raise awareness and uplift communities in our city that have for decades been under-resourced, overlooked, and felt the direct impacts of climate change,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I want to thank the EPA for awarding us this opportunity and I look forward to the collaboration between the environmental organizations, the Complete Communities, and the Houston artists to help tell our city’s story, while bridging the gap between equity and opportunity for all residents to succeed without barriers.”

The Mayor’s Offices of Cultural Affairs and Government Relations are leading this work with the Office of Complete Communities, Resilience and Sustainability and the Houston Health Department.  The City of Houston is also working with environmental partners such as Air Alliance Houston, Citizens Environmental Coalition, Environmental Defense Fund, and Houston Wilderness.

In the City of Houston, life expectancy can vary by more than 20 years between zip codes. COVID-19 has only reinforced the disproportionate negative impact in the most vulnerable populations.

This project will focus on the risks communities face from elevated levels of environmental pollutants, primarily PM2.5 (strongly associated with concrete batch plants) and benzene both of which can increase and exacerbate the health risks associated with COVID-19. The selected storyteller will work with the City of Houston, environmental and community stakeholders over a six-month period in a selected community.

In 2016, the residents of Acres Homes organized and demanded that the Soto Concrete Batch Plant on DeSoto St. not open due to the learned health risks and inequities in an already hurting community. Pulitzer Prize Recipient and Chief Political Cartoonist Nick Anderson voiced the communities’ concerns through a cartoon which raised awareness and eventually had the developer withdraw his permits.

Anderson unveiled a new cartoon during today’s campaign kick-off titled “The Hidden Cost of Concrete Batch Plans,” that can be seen below.

“With this grant, we hope to help change the environmental consciousness of Houston, to empower and activate traditionally underserved communities to effect change,” said Artist Nick Anderson. “We encourage all artists who have a passion to help the underserved communities, especially those who live in these five communities, to apply.”

To learn more about the Houston Inspira campaign, please visit https://moca.submittable.com/submit/218525/houston-inspira.

A video of today’s campaign kick-off can be found here.

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