South Philadelphia, which includes the Grey’s Ferry neighborhood, contains several communities thriving with small businesses and access to public transportation. East to West, South Philadelphia is bounded by the Delaware River and Broad St.
In 2012 the Public Health Management Corporation’s Community Health Data Base estimated that 19.4% of adults in Philadelphia had asthma, a startling comparison to the 7.0% national prevalence. Interstate 95 and Interstate 76 cut through the center of South Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Airport, Navy yard, and refineries lie just beyond its south and southwestern boarders. Environmental concerns include emissions from a petroleum refinery, emissions from the Philadelphia Airport, air pollution from traffic associated with a major postal distribution center and two major freeways. There are also a number of Brownfields and vacant lots in South Philadelphia, which can have an impact on the overall community pride and well-being.
South Philadelphia residents believe that their area has increased cancer rates due to their environmental exposures. Many of the citizens also suffer from asthma and pulmonary related diseases.
COEC Activities in South Philadelphia
South Philadelphia schools have been a longstanding location for our Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses in environmental health. These courses focus on asthma, lead, prevention of tobacco addiction in preadolescents, and community-based environmental health.
COEC-GAMP Air Pollution Partnership
Poor outdoor air quality is associated with an increased prevalence of asthma and related morbidities. In order to address this heavy burden of air pollution to the South Philadelphia community, we partnered with the local Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP) School to develop an air pollution curriculum with an emphasis on community outreach. In collaboration with US-EPA Region III and Philadelphia Air Management Services (AMS), we were able to develop an interactive curriculum that was integrated this school year into a 10th grade physical science course and a high school Environmental Science elective course. With a focus on dissemination to peers and the community, students worked on learning to translate air quality data into a variety of public service announcements and other presentations.
On Saturday, June 18th these means of translation were shared at an outdoor community event led by GAMP teachers Jared Ruddick and Jason Henderson at the Girard Estates Park. The focus of this event was to educate community members on air quality and associated health risk information in a fun and community-oriented way. In attendance were CEET’s Community Outreach and Engagement Core, AMS, EPA, the Clean Air Council, GAMP teachers and administration, GAMP students and their families, and local community members. Penn, EPA, AMS, and the Clean Air Council were available at tables throughout the event to provide information to community members. The students from Jason and Jared’s classes created posters featuring information regarding outdoor air pollution, which were strung up between trees for people to walk through and see. A local pizzeria provided dinner, following which the student groups’ video public service announcements were projected up onto a screen for the audience to view. The event culminated in the showing of the new feature Star Wars movie, which encouraged families from the community to come out to the event with their blankets and chairs.
This neighborhood and school-partnered event was a step toward closing the information gap between a community overburdened by air pollution and government agencies with air quality data. It brought together people whom might not normally interact together in a fun, outdoor, summertime setting.
STEER Activity in South Philadelphia (2012)
Adriana Garcia, STEER scholar 2012, Collaborated with EPA Region 3, Philadelphia Air Management Services, & UPenn on the South Philadelphia Air Toxics Community Engagement Project. The goal was to teach the South Philly community about air toxics’ health effects and to make the data from AMS’s air monitors understandable to residents. Adriana, along with EPA representatives (Carol Ann Gross-Davis, Jeff Turner, Lauren Davis) , UPenn researcher Michelle Kondo, PhD, and Prof. Richard Pepino, taught several air toxics lessons at Dixon House Summer Camp, which culminated in a poster contest with the theme “Share the Care with the Air.” Adriana also created a four-week air toxics teaching module for 12th grade Environmental Science at GAMP (Girard Academic Music Program), a magnet school in the School District of Philadelphia. In doing so, Adriana helped initiate a long-term partnership between STEER/TREES and GAMP.