Oregon PSR is proud to present a new report by member Patricia Kullberg, MD, MPH on racial and economic health disparities in Portland and how the Portland Clean Energy Initiative will benefit the health of Portland’s low-income residents and people of color.
“This report draws on more than a decade of research and investigation into climate change in Portland and the underserved communities of the city to illuminate how local strategies could mitigate the ill effects of climate change while providing immediate health benefits,” writes Dr. Kullberg in the report. “Drawing the connections between climate change and social inequities also draws the curtain aside on the root causes of both. Without this fundamental understanding, strategies of resistance are likely to fall short.”
Dr. Kullberg, a native Portlander, served for 20 years as the Medical Director of the Multnomah County Health Department where she practiced as a primary care clinician in a clinic for the medically indigent. Dr. Kullberg’s report shows that the Portland Clean Energy Initiative will have immediate positive impacts on the physical and mental health of Portland’s most underserved communities.
The report finds that 12.2% of Portlanders lived below the federal poverty line in 2015 and that economically disadvantaged Oregonians experience more than twice the rate of chronic conditions including asthma, diabetes, and family history of heart attack. Communities of color disproportionately live in impoverished neighborhoods and heat islands in Portland. Dr. Kullberg writes that these two-thirds of racial and economic disparities in health outcomes could be eliminated by improving social factors including access to well-insulated housing, high-wage employment, and parks and healthy food.
“Turning underserved communities into healthy communities does not happen in the absence of economic justice,” continues Dr. Kullberg. “The Portland Clean Energy Initiative is a strategy to give communities the tools and resources and vision to create their own clean energy future and build a healthier city for all of us.”