Dec. 6, 2022

Media Advisory: U.S. assistant secretary for health to give presentation on new Environmental Health Index

  • What: Adm. Rachel L. Levine, U.S. assistant secretary for health, will give a presentation on environmental justice and health equity.
  • When: Thursday, Dec. 8. Speech and Q&A from 9-10 a.m.; Environmental Justice Index training from 10-10:30.
  • Where: Room S107 of the Environment and Natural Resources 2 building, 1064 E. Lowell St.
  • RSVP: Media members must register for free online and email Craig Baker at with the number of people in your party.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Adm. Rachel L. Levine, assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will give a presentation on the University of Arizona campus about the department's new Environmental Justice Index.

The event on Thursday is presented by the UArizona Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, which explores solutions to major policy issues through research, education and public service. The event is also sponsored by the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture and the Office of Research, Innovation and Impact.

The new Environmental Justice Index uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rank the cumulative impacts of environmental injustice on health for every census tract in the United States.

The index incorporates a map that allows users to zoom in on census tracts across the country and learn about their specific environmental health challenges, and how those challenges disproportionately impact people of various demographics and socioeconomic statuses.

UArizona has a long history of research addressing environmental health disparities. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded university researchers $3.5 million to fight extreme heat in cities across Arizona as part of a larger project involving the three state universities.

Another $6 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the UArizona Climate Assessment for the Southwest, or CLIMAS, will allow researchers to examine how water, aridity and heat impact communities in the American Southwest.

And a $2 million grant from the CDC will fund a partnership between UArizona researchers and the Arizona Department of Health Services to prepare the state for adverse effects of climate change, especially heat-related health hazards.

Levine, who is also head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, serves as the 17th assistant secretary for health, working to help the country overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and help all Americans have a healthier future.

Levine began her career in academic medicine with research focused on the intersection between mental and physical health, treating children, adolescents and young adults. She was a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine and served as vice chair for clinical affairs for the Department of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

She became Pennsylvania's physician general in 2015 and then the state's secretary of health in 2018, focused on addressing Pennsylvania's opioid crisis, as well as improving the state's maternal health and immunization rates among children.

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Media contacts:
Craig Baker
Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy

Adam Sarvana
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2020 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $761 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 66 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

The University of Arizona Land Acknowledgement