Environmental Justice: Confronting Environmental Disparities through a National and Local Lens

28th Annual Public Health Symposium

Monday, April 3rd from 12-4 pm.

New Location: 

Busch Student Center: 604 Bartholomew Rd, Piscataway, NJ 08854

- Busch Campus Parking Map

- Parking Registration

All Attendees must register through the New Jersey Learning Management Network. (You can create a free account if you don’t already have one).

Symposium Content

Having clean air and water, a safe home, and a sustainable environment free from pollution and climate change are all essential to living a healthy life. Everyone deserves to be treated equally regarding the laws, regulations, and policies impacting their environments. Unfortunately, racial and economic disparities have and continue to exist between those who have the power to impact environmental conditions and those who do not, leaving those without power to suffer the consequences of health hazards in their communities.

Out of these conditions, the environmental justice movement was born and is still being fought today. Yet, environmental justice demands a different future for communities overburdened by hazards like lead in their water, pollution in their air, and chemicals in their soil. This half-day Symposium will bring together leaders from academia, community organizations, and the government to examine how impacted communities historically fought for change and what lessons can be learned from these efforts. It will also explore ways New Jersey is leading the fight for environmental justice and where work remains to be done.

Sponsored by the Center for Public Health Workforce Development (CPHWD) at Rutgers University School of Public Health and the Alpha Eta Chapter of Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health.

This event is being held in recognition of National Public Health Week 2023 (April 3-9)

Submit a Poster

The Center for Public Health Workforce Development is now accepting submissions for the poster session that will take place at the 2023 Public Health Symposium Monday,  April 3rd  (12 - 4pm). New Location: Busch Student Center:  604 Bartholomew Rd,  Piscataway,  NJ.

All public health research and practice posters are welcome!  We'd also love to have a few posters that highlight work around environmental justice in New Jersey.  Please encourage any colleagues or students that might be doing work in public health or environmental justice to participate.  All poster presenters must complete this online application by March 14, 2023. 

All Attendees must register through the New Jersey Learning Management Network. 

 (You can create a free account if you don’t already have one).


Keynote Speaker:

Nicky Sheats, Ph.D, MPP, Esq.

Director, Center for the Urban Environment, John S. Watson Institute for Urban Policy and 

Research, Kean University

Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq., is the director of the Center for the Urban Environment of the John S. Watson Institute for Urban Policy and Research at Kean University and has defined the primary mission of the Center as providing support for the environmental justice (EJ) community.  Among the issues he works on are air pollution, climate change, cumulative impacts, developing EJ legal strategies and increasing the working capacity of the EJ community.

Sheats was a founding member of the NJ EJ Alliance and the EJ Leadership Forum on Climate Change. He served on the NJ Clean Air Council, and EPA’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee and National EJ Advisory Council. Sheats was also a co-author of the human health chapter of the 2014 National Climate Assessment. He is currently serving on the White House EJ Advisory Council.

Early in his career he practiced law as a public interest attorney. During that time Sheats served as a law clerk for the Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (the local Court); as a landlord-tenant and housing attorney at Camden Regional Legal Services; as a public defender in New Brunswick, New Jersey; and as a legal instructor at a community legal education and college preparatory program in Harlem. He holds a B.A. in economics from Princeton University and earned a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences, J.D. and Master of Public Policy from Harvard University.


Kandyce Perry

Director of the Office of Environmental Justice under Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette.

Kandyce is responsible for the management and oversight of the OEJ, which provides guidance to the DEP and all New Jersey state departments and agencies on how they can incorporate environmental justice into their statutory and regulatory responsibilities, policies, programs, and core functions. She also oversees the convening of the State’s Environmental Justice Interagency Council and Environmental Justice Advisory Council, while acting as a key contact for overburdened communities.

Prior to joining the department, Kandyce worked at a Trenton-based nonprofit, where she directed policies and programs aimed at reducing flooding, improving water quality, and ensuring equitable funding of stormwater infrastructure upgrades in the state. She also had worked on brownfield redevelopmentfortheCamden Redevelopment Agency. Kandyce holds a master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Spelman College. She believes that environmental justice for our must vulnerable and overburdened communities brings about justice for all of Earth’s inhabitants.


Melissa Miles

Executive Director, New Jersey 

Environmental Justice Alliance

Melissa Miles (she/her) is an Environmental and Climate Justice advocate who began her career as a community organizer while living in an Environmental Justice community in Newark, New Jersey. She holds an MA in Anthropology from The New School but maintains that her knowledge of EJ is rooted in her lived experience and her commitment to making sure that people at the frontlines are the protagonists in the struggle for their future. Melissa’s vision is to support environmental and climate justice for communities that are rooted in place, where people can live, work, learn, and play in health. She is the Executive Director of New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, a statewide organization working towards a Just Transition with New Jersey's low-income and Of Color communities overburdened by pollution and climate change impacts. Melissa also serves on NJDEP’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council, the Coalition for Healthy Ports, and the Moving Forward Network Advisory Board.

Table Exhibitors

Rutgers University- SPH-CPHWD 

New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials 

NJDOH Communicable Disease Service 

New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance 

NJ Department of Health 

NJDOH- Infectious and Zoonotic Disease Program | Communicable Disease Service 

New Jersey Public Health Association - Rutgers Student Center 

Somerset County Department of Health 

Rutgers School of Public Health

Poster Presentations

USDA People, Plants, and the Planet – Factors Influencing How Adolescents Care for the Planet

Shannon Barlow, BA1, Shauna Downs, PhD, MS2, Sara Elnakib, PhD, MPH, RDN1, Ethan Schoolman, PhD3, Peggy Policastro, PhD, RDN4

1Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Department of Family & Community Health Sciences, 2Rutgers School of Public Health, Department of Health, Behavior, Society, & Policy, 3Rutgers School of Environmental & Biological Sciences, Department of Human Ecology, 4Rutgers Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health

      This poster reflects the results of semi-structured interviews that were conducted with fifth grade students 

      across New Jersey to help answer the question "what can you do to take care of the planet?". This work 

      was the conducted as part of a larger study, The People, Planets, and the Planet Grant, which is 

      funded through the USDA.

The Association Between Mental Health and Marital Status Stratified by Gender 

Susanne Arney, Rutgers School of Public Health

      Married people are significantly less likely to have mental health problems (p<.001). Mental health problems 

      are defined as “ever” or “never” having been diagnosed with any emotional, nervous, or psychiatric problems. 

      Marriage is defined without distinction between legal marriage and cohabitation, specifying presence or 

      lack of a spouse or partner in the family unit. Cohabitation may be a proxy for social support improving 

      mental health outcomes. Crosstabs and Chi-Squared tests were used to analyze data from the 2017 

      wave of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) Data Custom Codebook (112 variables, 14,571 respondents).

Marital Status & Heart Problems: Are They Related?

Muhamad Nabil Ahmad Husni, Rutgers School of Public Health

     Previous studies suggest that married men are healthier than unmarried men and marital status should be 

     considered as a protective factor against cardiovascular disease. This research investigates whether married 

     men above 45 years old from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan have a 

     lower prevalence of heart disease than married men. 2,997 participants were eligible for this research, and 

     chi-squared was used to test the hypothesis. The result exhibits statistical significance, and 

     future longitudinal is recommended.

Environmental Justice and COVID-19 across New Jersey: 

A Comparison of Geostatistical and Machine Learning Approaches

Xiang Ren, Zhongyuan Mi, Panos Georgopoulos, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI), Rutgers University

     The present work aims to improve understanding of how social and environmental disparities impacted 

     COVID-19 outcomes across New Jersey. We retrieved data for COVID-19 cases and deaths for the 565 

     municipalities of New Jersey and considered 84 spatially heterogeneous environmental, demographic and 

     socioeconomic factors. Six geostatistical models and two machine learning methods were implemented to 

     assess association patterns. Our modeling results indicate robust positive associations of COVID-19 

     mortality with historic exposures to NO2, population density, percentage of minority and below high 

     school education, and other social and environmental factors.

Your support is greatly appreciated. 

28th Annual Public Health Symposium Schedule

 •  Light Refreshments/ Poster Presenters/ Exhibitors

 •    Welcome

 •    Keynote Speaker

        Nicky Sheats, Ph.D, MPP, Esq.

 •    Kandyce Perry 

 •   Melissa Miles

 •   Q&A

 •   Closing