HHS Launches Environmental Justice Community Innovator Challenge
Challenge aims to bolster community and Tribal-led solutions with $1 million in total prizes over the next year, advance Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to environmental justice
Today, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic climate and environmental justice agenda, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the launch of a nation-wide HHS Environmental Justice Community Innovator Challenge to support disadvantaged communities and Tribes facing the brunt of environmental injustices, including health harms due to climate change. This Challenge aims to uplift community-level solutions to address health inequities with prizes totaling $1,000,000 that will be awarded in two phases. The Biden-Harris Administration is delivering on the most ambitious climate and environmental justice agenda in our nation’s history, advancing President Biden’s belief that every person has a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy community.
The Challenge will further partnerships with communities, in line with the White House Campaign for Environmental Justice, and help drive innovation to catalyze creative solutions to confront longstanding environmental injustices and inequities. The announcement comes on Day 1 of Climate Week 2023, which will feature senior Biden-Administration officials throughout the week.
“With this HHS Environmental Justice Community Innovator Challenge, the Biden-Harris Administration is signaling our commitment to ongoing partnership at the community level in support of environmental justice. Last year, we established the HHS Office of Environmental Justice to coordinate efforts like this one, which is aimed at strengthening community capacity and supporting community, and Tribal-led solutions to advance environmental justice and health equity,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
For years, studies have demonstrated that low-income communities, communities of color, Tribal nations, and vulnerable populations, like children, are disproportionately burdened by environmental and climate change-related hazards. These populations are more likely to be exposed to unhealthy land uses, poor air and water quality, dilapidated housing, lead exposure, and other environmental threats that drive health disparities.
“The Challenge mechanism provides an opportunity for community and Tribal voices to share their own approaches in improving public health, reducing pollution, and addressing local climate change impacts on our health. Our goal is to support and learn from these partners across the country,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, Admiral Rachel Levine. “Awards will help to engage local problem solvers on impactful community solutions.”
In alignment with the President Biden’s Executive Order 14096, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, the Challenge will support community-driven projects designed to address environmental justice and public health issues in areas adversely affected by environmental pollution and hazards. The Challenge also advances the goals of the President’s Justice40 Initiative.
“This Environmental Justice Challenge serves as an important catalyst for the development and small-scale implementation of community-driven approaches for addressing environmental and climate change hazards in racial, ethnic, tribal and other disadvantaged communities,” said Rear Admiral Felicia Collins, M.D., M.P.H., HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and OMH Director. “Many of the best approaches for resolving such public health challenges come from individuals and small community-based organizations. Using the Challenge.gov platform, we are able to reach these individuals and organizations.
“The pursuit of environmental justice and health equity are inextricably linked,” said Dr. Sharunda Buchanan, Ph.D., Interim Director of the Office of Environmental Justice. “It’s critical that we hear directly from those with lived experiences and firsthand knowledge of local factors that drive disproportionate health impacts.”
HHS invites entries on all efforts to advance environmental justice, including:
- Development or implementation of innovative and effective community-driven strategies to address health disparities in communities that are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards including those related to climate change, and the cumulative impacts of environmental and other stressors.
- Application of publicly-available data tools (i.e., Environmental Justice Index, Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, EJScreen) to identify signals or patterns of inequity in the distribution of environmental and climate change-related hazards, and to support measures of community resilience and research around the effectiveness of exposure mitigation efforts on human health.
- Effective partnerships between community-based or Tribal organizations and other civil organizations, such as faith-based, health care, public health, and educational organizations, to address environmental and climate change-related hazards and support community resilience.
- Innovative approaches to building capacity in community-based or Tribal organizations on project planning, needs assessment, budgeting, engagement with community members, and grant application writing, to address environmental and climate change-related hazards as drivers of health disparities.
- Novel approaches to addressing the mental health impacts of environmental and climate change-related hazards and other cumulative stressors, especially among children and youth.
The Challenge has two phases. All eligible entries will be evaluated, and separate prizes will be awarded for each of the two phases.
- Phase 1 will focus on design of concept or development of approach. Entries for Phase 1 will be accepted from September 18, 2023 until January 30, 2024.
- Phase 2 will focus on small-scale testing or implementation. Entries for Phase 2 will begin in Spring 2024.
Participants will have access to a technical assistance opportunity in each phase of the Challenge. HHS will also provide informational webinars leading up to the entry deadline.
For more details on how to enter, please click here.