Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Focus Area

Environmental Health

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Our environment—the air we breathe, the food we consume and the climate around us—profoundly impacts our health.

Communities of color and low-income populations are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards and the impacts of climate change.

PHI is in the vanguard of improving health and equity by addressing some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.

We undertake groundbreaking studies. We show how the built environment can influence whether or not an individual will develop asthma, cancer and other illnesses.

We educate the public and policy makers about the impacts of climate change on public health, and more.

Download PHI's Work in Environmental Health: Examples of Impact


Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen / Flickr


Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative
(PHI program 2002-2017)

The Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII) is a nationally recognized leader in transforming public health practice to advance health equity to create healthier communities. It is a collaborative of public health directors, officers, senior managers and staff from the 11 San Francisco Bay Area health departments and the California Department of Public Health. In 2017, BARHII transitioned its fiscal sponsorship to the Tides Foundation.

Learn about Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative
(PHI program 2002-2017) projects

Berkeley Media Studies Group

Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) works with community groups, journalists and public health professionals to use the power of the media to advance healthy public policy. To do this, BMSG conducts research to understand how news, entertainment and advertising portray health and social issues. Through media advocacy training and consultation, BMSG helps advocates harness lessons from that research and develop the skills they need to become stronger voices in policy debate and illuminate the need for improving the places where all people live, learn, work and play.

Learn about Berkeley Media Studies Group projects

California Convergence Coordinating Office

The California Convergence is a regionally organized, statewide network that unites community leaders and partners to collectively build equitable, safe and healthy communities where everyone participates and prospers.  Convergence is governed and guided by a statewide, community-led steering committee, with administrative, communication, policy and evaluation-related support from the California Convergence Coordinating Office and statewide partners.

Learn about California Convergence Coordinating Office projects

California Green Chemistry Evaluation Project

California Green Chemistry Evaluation Project


California has unique laws intended to protect public health and exceed federal protections against pollution and toxic chemicals. Two laws enacted in 2008 built on a foundation of other policies related to clean air, clean water, and children’s health protection. Assembly Bill (AB) 1879 established the Safer Consumer Products Program at the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and Senate Bill (SB) 509 established the Toxics Information Clearinghouse. The new laws focused on green chemistry with the goals of providing more information about chemicals in products and encouraging substitution of toxic chemicals with less toxic or non-toxic alternatives.


A decade after the passage of these groundbreaking laws, a systematic and comprehensive evaluation of their performance was done, with a special focus on whether the laws were effective at protecting Californians from exposure to chemicals that may cause or contribute to disease. Findings and recommendations from the project will assist policymakers in making necessary improvements to the functioning of the laws. This policy research project was designed specifically to test the hypothesis that there are several politically and scientifically feasible policy enhancements that could significantly strengthen and assist in the implementation of California’s existing laws on green chemistry and toxic chemicals.


The investigators conducted a systematic review of the literature to identify best practice policies that protect public health from toxic chemicals, including European, federal, and state models. The investigators also conducted structured interviews with experts from government, academia, industry, and non-governmental organizations, designed to elicit recommendations on green chemistry science and policy. In October 2018, the investigators issued a report with findings and recommendations, including a summary of how known and suspected breast carcinogens have been addressed by policy efforts in California. An advisory group of experts in green chemistry, chemical policy, and breast cancer oversaw and advised the project. The report was released on the ten-year anniversary of the passage of the green chemistry legislation.


Learn about California Green Chemistry Evaluation Project projects

California Occupational Health Surveillance and Evaluation Program (OHSEP)

OHSEP, a program of the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health, tracks work-related injuries and diseases, studies workplace exposures and health effects, and makes prevention recommendations to employers and employees. OHSEP information is used to improve workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Programs and help identify and treat early work-related injuries and disease. OHSEP focuses on work-related asthma, fatal occupational incidents, pesticide poisoning and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Learn about California Occupational Health Surveillance and Evaluation Program (OHSEP) projects

Center for Climate Change and Health

The Center for Climate Change and Health contributes to building healthy and climate-resilient communities that have the right tools to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Center engages local leaders, community-based organizations, public health and health care workers, scientists, policymakers and civil society in mainstreaming the protection of health across a wide range of policies and sectors. It promotes strategies that effectively address the impacts of climate change on health, while at the same time generating co-benefits from adaptation and mitigation for health and across other sectors.

Learn about Center for Climate Change and Health projects

Child Health and Development Studies

Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) investigates how health and disease are passed on between generations--not only genetically, but also through social, personal and environmental surroundings. Nearly 50 years ago, CHDS enrolled over 15,000 families during the mothers' early pregnancy. Families participated in comprehensive interviews about their health, lifestyle and experiences. Follow-up studies CHDS children, now adults, and on their children, enable CHDS scientists to study health across generations and seek ways to prevent disease early in life.

Learn about Child Health and Development Studies projects

Health Spectrum Program

Using a multi-dimensional emphasis that encompasses geographical, age, gender, socio-economic status, and race and ethnicity categories, the Health Spectrum Program provides issue and policy analysis and reporting; project/program and policy evaluation; training; technical assistance for statewide disease prevention and other health initiatives; and capacity building. The Health Spectrum Program focuses on children's health; health disparities; chronic disease prevention; wellness for leaders and decision-makers; and tobacco-free hospital campuses and patient treatment policies.

Learn about Health Spectrum Program projects

Public Health Alliance of Southern California

The Public Health Alliance of Southern California (Alliance) is a coalition of local health departments in Southern California. Collectively our members have statutory responsibility for the health of nearly 50% of California’s population. Our vision is “Vibrant and activated communities achieving health, justice and opportunities for all.”

The Alliance builds healthy, equitable communities through upstream multi-sector policy, systems and environmental change; and mobilizes the transformative power of local public health for enduring health equity. Our work is focused around six key strategies as outlined in our 2019-2024 Strategic Plan: (1) Advance Health Equity, (2) Champion Prevention Funding, (3) Promote Powerful, Healthy Communities, (4) Elevate the Climate + Health Nexus, (5) Transform Data Into Action and (6) Strengthen the Alliance. 

Learn about Public Health Alliance of Southern California projects

Public Health Trust

The Public Health Trust (PHT) works with private attorneys, government agencies and public health organizations interested in using litigation settlement funds to improve public health. PHT manages settlement funds with a focus on transparency and accountability. PHT grantees address a wide range of public health issues from marketing of food, tobacco products, exposure to toxic substances, medication access, and air and water quality.

Learn about Public Health Trust projects

Regional Asthma Management and Prevention Program

The Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP) program is a collaborative that promotes strategies for reducing asthma through a broad and comprehensive approach that includes clinical management and environmental protection. RAMP brings together diverse partners such as public health and community-based organizations, schools, medical providers, and environmental health and justice groups to join forces in reducing the burden of asthma with a focus on communities inequitably affected by the disease.

Learn about Regional Asthma Management and Prevention Program projects

Roots of Change

Roots of Change (ROC) is a think tank-and-do tank working to ensure emergence of a sustainable food system in California. ROC provides road maps to food movement power and policy victories. ROC has a clear change strategy, an extensive statewide network of change agents and a track record of spawning and leading projects that are transformative because they unify actors to push for progress using multiple intervention points simultaneously. ROC is focused primarily on California because it is a bellwether that can positively influence the nation. 

Learn about Roots of Change projects

Survey Research Group

The Survey Research Group (SRG) conducts population based health-related surveys, using one of the country's most technologically advanced call centers. Since 1987, public health officials, advocates and researchers use the data for: tracking health risks, identifying emerging problems, improving treatment, and evaluating programs. SRG’s mission is to foster health, well-being, and quality of life through rigorous quantitative and qualitative research guided by the principles of equity in health, environment, education and economic context. Read more about SRG's services.

Learn about Survey Research Group projects

Tracking California

Tracking California (formerly the California Environmental Health Tracking Program) compiles, analyzes, and shares data to identify and understand pollution and disease. Tracking California helps communities, government agencies, researchers, and health advocates use data to take action in order to reduce pollution and improve health.

Learn about Tracking California projects

Additional PHI Projects