Air and Climate Policy Are Social Policies

Jun 8, 2017

NASWNCSocial workers analyze policy through the lens of the most vulnerable people whom the policy would affect. Generally, the most vulnerable include children, the elderly, people of color, people with mental illnesses, and people living in poverty. Not coincidentally, these are the same people who are most adversely affected by our air quality policies and climate change events. Air Pollution, Environmental Justice and Climate Change, the latest continuing education webinar from Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, shows social workers how air and climate policy is social policy, and invites them to join in environmental health advocacy with organizations like MAHA.


The webinar, hosted by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), furthers the NASW policy position that exhorts social workers to become more aware of the effect of the environment on vulnerable communities, and to take action. It provides a basic primer of the composition and sources of various pollutants and greenhouse gasses, and identifies the different ways in which they affect individuals’ physical and mental health, such as increased risks for poor birth outcomes and PTSD. It also overviews how environmental justice issues — such as the siting of hog farms and highways in communities of color — and climate change events like hurricanes and droughts can affect a community’s functioning and survival.

The webinar details tools social workers can access to inform clients on protecting themselves, such as the Air Quality Index, and the role social workers can play in developing individual and community resilience. It ends with a discussion of how joining colleagues in advocacy organizations like Medical Advocates for Healthy Air can help social workers fulfill the NASW imperative to engage in “community organizing, coalition building, social and economic development planning, case advocacy, and political action to improve the person-natural environment interface”.