The Notebook (Issue 15)
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The week of January 3rd, 2022

This season we are struck by the power of gentleness. Gentleness that comforts us in the giving and softens us in the receiving. Gentleness that inspired Thomas Merton, and gentleness that has reemerged as the answer to a yearning call of many in popular media as 2021 comes to an end.

“It is in deep solitude and silence that I find the gentleness 

with which I can truly love my brother and sister.”

 -Thomas Merton

Can practicing gentleness in our personal lives transform into empathy in how we engage in our larger communities?

The New Year has a way of inspiring a sense of hope for the future. It is a symbol of possibility, for new beginnings. This New Year, we renew our commitment to creating A New Vision of Health for our city and beyond. 

We are inspired by Dr. Natasha DeJarnett as she tells part of her story through an interview below. As you are reading the Q&A with her, you will see that she steps up to be a part of the solution every day by tying her lived experience with the impact she is able to make through her work. What does your commitment to creating A New Vision of Health look like in 2022?

Q&A WITH DR. DEJARNETT, Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, on her recent contributions to an upcoming 2022 book entitled, “Improving Women’s Health Across the Lifespan.”

Q: Dr. DeJarnett, your chapter in “Improving Women’s Health Across the Lifespan” is entitled, “Avoiding Risky Substances and Environmental Exposures.” Why is it important to consider environmental exposure when considering women’s overall health?

A: Toxins in air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil that grows our food can harm health. Therefore, I believe environmental health should be important to everyone. From childhood, we have different developmental stages where exposures could impose short- and long-term health consequences.  However, women have unique stages in our lifespan where exposures can have a greater burden, including childhood, adolescence, preconception, pregnancy/lactation, and menopause.

Q: What inspired you to take on environmental health challenges in your career? What inspires you today?

A: When I attended graduate school, I had the great opportunity to investigate a health conundrum that had plagued me for decades. I investigated why my well-controlled asthma would flare up when I visited my family in Birmingham, AL. Through this community health assessment, I discovered that the North Birmingham neighborhood where my grandparents lived, where my parents were raised, was historically home to numerous industrial polluters that contributed to poor air quality and soil contamination, and there are numerous environmental injustices that persist there today. These exposures were associated with higher chronic disease risk that this predominantly African American community currently faces. We all deserve clean air to breathe and safe water to drink, and this experience made clear just how important that is and how inequitably distributed dirty air can be across our communities. Further, it gave me my quest to give voice to those rendered voiceless, and that quest continues to inspire me today.

Q: How does the health of our air, water, and soil play into overall health for women? Are there other major factors that should be considered when assessing women’s health?

A: In toxicology, we have a saying that the dose makes the poison. This is absolutely true in a general sense; the amount, duration, and frequency of our exposures influence the toxicity of environmental hazards in our air, water, and soil. Nonetheless, there are additional factors that influence our susceptibility, including age, height, weight, nutritional status, pre-existing illness, as well as exposure route, but sex is also a key factor influencing our body’s response to toxins. We share in the chapter how exposures can affect women uniquely across different stages in our lifespan demonstrated through reproductive and gynecologic health outcomes, including age of menstruation onset, fertility, pregnancy, lactation, and onset of menopause.

Q: Why it is important to consider all forms of health when assessing women’s health? What considerations should we make for equity/justice in this evaluation of women’s overall health?

A: It is important to consider the biophychosocial differences experienced by women when evaluating potentially adverse health effects because these factors provide a more comprehensive view of sources of hazardous exposures, and they differ across the lifespan. During the different stages of women’s lifespan, adverse exposures can be more or less toxic. In addition, there are social and cultural characteristics that influence our exposures as well as our residential proximity to hazards. For example, consider that some personal care products used by women and girls contain phthalates, chemicals toxic to our endocrine system. A number of these hazardous personal care products have advertisements directed toward girls and women of color. Further, foods may differ by culture, leaving some women more or less exposed based on dietary factors. In addition, in some cultures, women may spend more time in the home and may have higher burden of exposure to indoor air quality factors like household cleaning products or cooking-related emissions. Environmental justice permeates all aspects of public health. Therefore, it is critical to keep equity and justice central in how we assess exposures across women’s lifespan.

Q: What is the single most important thing for women to know about ways to limit their environmental exposures at home?

A: I am pleased that we were able to offer several strong recommendations in the chapter regarding women’s exposure to air, water, soil, personal care products, plastics, and equity and justice. Among these, what I think is most important for women to know is that there is a wealth of information available online to help inform and guide personal decision-making. For example, using EPA’s Air Quality Index will empower women to make informed decisions based on local air quality levels, and The Environmental Working Group hosts a webpage and app includes a large database that describes potential toxins in our cosmetic products. Through resources like these, knowledge can be transformed into health protection, and thus, power.

WE SEND OUR LOVE AND SUPPORT to all of those who were affected by the truly devastating tornadoes in Kentucky on December 10th. From our friends at the Commonwealth Alliance Donor Table, we’d love to share this “list of lists,” compiling numerous resources and calls for assistance that local organizations have put together in support of the affected communities. We send our most heartfelt Thank You to the local community leaders, first responders, and frontline workers. We have included more information below that has been shared with us by The Donor Table.


Our friends at the Commonwealth Alliance Donor Table shared these notes that we found very important when considering how to best help the affected communities right now.

1. There is still so much unknown and recovery will be a long journey. Right now it's about meeting the immediate needs of those affected. We've heard needs from everything including gas, generators, clothing, baby formula, etc.

2. Many of the people affected are from refugee or immigrant populations. The Western part of the county is where many immigrant communities live. Mayfield's population is also 30% BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and persons of color). Currently, we are working with grassroots leaders to encourage coordinated translators on the ground. If you are interested in learning how to support this, please contact Meghan Rouse ([email protected]).

RESEARCHERS HAVE DISCOVERED a breakthrough technique to studying air pollution- through music, dance, and art. Check out these creative ways some international communities are coming together to improve air quality issues in their regions! One of the authors of the study, Dr. Cressida Bowyer from the University of Portsmouth, says: "For the first time, a study has placed arts and humanities methods at the center of the exploration of perceptions of air pollution. Our research has pushed the boundaries between disciplines, between research and action, and between experts by education and experts by experience."

The Filson Historical Society has formally announced an exciting new initiative, the Kentucky Covid-19 Poster Project. With support from The Snowy Owl Foundation and Mountjoy Chilton Medley, seven local Kentuckiana artists received a commission to design posters that will be added to the Filson’s Covid-19 Community Collection until February 1st. These posters have been added to the Filson's COVID-19 Community Archive online and will be part of a long term online exhibit. The artists featured are:

Shae Goodlett
Amiya Crawford
Tad DeSanto
Mallory Lucas
Keith Rose
Patricia Fulce-Smith
Paul “Arte” Chambers

Click the link above to learn more about this impactful project! And make sure to stop by to enjoy the artists’ work displayed on the corner of 5th and W. Muhammad Ali Blvd!

DON'T MISS YOUR CHANCE to hear from Congressman Jamie Raskin and Dr. Fiona Hill at the next University of Louisville Author Forum, happening on January 24, 2022 at 6:00PM at the Bomhard Theater. Click here to buy your tickets today!

KENTUCKY'S VACCINE DISTRIBUTION is now open to everyone ages 5 and older. Here is a listing of the various providers and locations for vaccine availability. We have found this tool, Vaccine Spotter, helpful for consolidating providers and showing availability.

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