The mission of the Wellesley Health Department is to assess and address the needs of the Wellesley community, in order to protect and improve the health and quality of life of its residents and work force. This charge is carried out by the implementation of disease prevention programs, health promotion, community health and nursing services, public outreach, education and empowerment, as well as promulgation and enforcement of Health Department, Town and State regulations.
1. What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?
Linda Oliver Grape
Our family are avid “recyclers” and are regular visitors to the RDF! It is a facility that the Town should be most proud. When my children were in elementary school, I was a regular Environmental Aid and learned so very much about the environment from the legendary late Bev Morrison, from the faculty and students. I have incorporated much of what I have learned in my daily routine. In the workplace, I led initiatives promoting recycling and also implemented a “no smoking” policy.
First and foremost, my track record on environmental sustainability begins with acknowledgment and awareness. I acknowledge that climate change is the single most critical issue we face today as a global society. I am aware that its adverse impact on environmental and human health, food security, and economic systems is expanding, threatening our survival.
While I have not led any environmental sustainability initiatives, I have participated in several of them here in Wellesley. These include abandoning the use of pesticides, active participation in the RDF recycling and Food Waste program, purchasing and driving a hybrid vehicle, using electricity from renewable sources, and installing smart thermostats in my home, among others. Also, as a Town Meeting Member I am committed to ensuring that the town allocates funding for green growth and sustainable development in all new projects.
2. How do you view the relationship between public health, the environment and sustainability?
Linda Oliver Grape
It is imperative that there be a strong connection among the public’s health, the environment and sustainability. It is the responsibility of this generation to ensure a healthy and safe environment for the next generation. In order to do so, implementing best practices for sustainability in all areas of the community (private and public sector) is critical. Our schools and many businesses have done a laudable job in adopting many environmentally sound practices. The recently implemented ban on plastic bags was adopted by Wellesley businesses in a most agreeable manner. It is the responsibility of the Board of Health to ensure a safe, healthy environment for Wellesley; this includes ensuring that we have a safe, sustainable environment.
Climate change is one the most ominous threats to global public health. Both physical and mental health are adversely impacted by more extreme weather events (wildfires, floods, heatwaves, droughts, etc.), poor air quality, contaminated water and food supplies, water shortages, and diseases spread by insects and pests. We are not immune to these threats here in Wellesley. We must engage all town residents and government agencies to ensure that they recognize the problem is here now, not something that is a distant problem not yet affecting our community.
3. What specific initiatives related to the environment should the Board of Health undertake in your next three-year term?
Linda Oliver Grape
- The Board of Health needs to develop guideline/policy for vaping; this practice has had a significant increase in popularity and unfortunately, many are young adults.
- Joining forces with the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Board of Health should work together to develop more stringent regulations regarding recycling; several other towns in the Commonwealth now require recycling plastic and aluminum and impose financial penalties for infractions.
- Another activity with the DPW would include identifying other opportunities to minimize use of plastic and to promote that practice in the community.
- Ensuring that the town’s surveillance for insects which pose a public health risk are identified early and are addressed in a manner that does not harm the environment is another initiative that deserves our constant attention.
I believe there are several initiatives that can be undertaken to ensure that the town fully connects the dots between climate change, environmental sustainability, and public health. Many public health departments in Massachusetts and across our nation have established goals and implemented programs to mitigate the impact of climate change on public health. As a Board of Health member, I will work with others to pursue the following initiatives for our community:
- Partner with Sustainable Wellesley to establish an “Environmental Sustainability for Public Health” initiative…
- Educate town officials about the impact of climate change on public health
- Educate the public on links between environmental degradation and public health, as well as the community health benefits of alternative/renewable sources of energy
- Ensure that sustainability and public health are integrated into the broader scope of all town policies
- Partner with WMLP to achieve higher levels of participation in the renewable energy program (currently only 10% of residential and commercial customers)
- Provide training to all Health Department staff on climate change, the Department’s role in local climate change initiatives, and policy development for climate change
- Partner with Sustainable Wellesley to create an award for businesses engaged in environmental sustainability with the greatest health impact for our community