Adelita Cantu, PhD, RN

I have been a public health nurse for over 40 years and as such have always known about the connection between our environment and our health. Because of the present and coming crisis due to climate change, that connection has become even more important. As such, I have been inspired to do what I can as a nurse to make a difference through advocacy, education and practice.

Adelita Cantu and youth leaders

My development of environmental activism in San Antonio, TX includes working with the city to develop a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. I am part of the Climate and Equity technical working group to ensure that any adaptation plans include strategies that are equitable to all residents, particularly the residents that have been impacted the most by the consequences of climate change yet have contributed the least to it. Further to ensure that the city and its policymakers are accountable to the plan, I am an active partner of Climate Action SA, a coalition of committed individuals and organization dedicated to ensuring that San Antonio has healthy families, strong communities, and a sustainable future in the face of the growing dangers of climate change.

I am an Associate Professor at UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing. In teaching population health, I use my position to raise the level of awareness and understanding of environmental health among nursing and other health professional students. I have created a module that is delivered each semester to nursing students called “Climate Change as a Public Health Issue” in which I use many real-time examples to assist students to understand how acute and chronic health conditions are impacted by the changing climate thus encouraging them to understand how nursing can play a part in reducing the factors that contribute to climate change.

Finally, in addition to the above, I has been stellar in engaging the community, particularly low-income Hispanic youth, and increasing their awareness about climate change. I have strategically focused on this population as they are a population that is the most vulnerable to climate change consequences thus can be an integral part in developing sustainability for their communities. In the past, I have received grants to assist in this effort. I developed an EcoCamp in partnership with a nonprofit called San Anto Cultural Arts. EcoCp engaged Hispanic youth in climate change education and San Anto worked with the youth to develop public service announcements about the consequences of climate change.

Currently I received two-year funding from the Aetna Foundation to develop the Youth Air Quality Academy. For the past two years, I have collaborated with nonprofits that work with Hispanic youth. Cohorts of teen youth, from 14-18 years, have been given information about air quality, the health consequences of poor air quality and ways to limit its continuation. Then the youth are asked to do Acts of Leadership, delivering the message about the importance of air quality to their peers, to policy makers and the community at large. Acts of leadership that the youth have been a part of include: presentations to their peers, letter writing campaigns to local, state and federal policymakers, giving voice, during citizen participation, to air quality at a city council meeting, and developing screen printing with air quality messages with one being selected to be the “face” of the official 2019 San Antonio Earth Day activities, including the print being on all the marketing material.

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