This fall, the Center for Climate, Health and Equity is spotlighting the 10 health equity and climate justice champions it sponsored to attend APHA’s July 2019 #ClimateChangesHealth Speak for Health Advocacy Bootcamp in Washington, D.C. Today’s conversation is with Sativa Banks, a second year MPH student at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio.

Sativa BanksQ: What are your goals as a public health student?

A: My goal is to amplify the use of public health research, expertise and framing by conducting research that examines the health impact of inequities. I want to help ensure that all people, regardless of their race or ethnicity, their socioeconomic status or where they live, have access to the same standard of optimal health.

Q: What is your role in the climate, health and equity discourse? How can you make a difference?

A: I believe I have a responsibility to advocate for change that advances the health of all by informing people about the issues, rallying support for the causes I believe in and reaching out to legislators to show them how they can help drive change.

Most recently, I worked closely with a group of my peers to educate Ohio state legislators about the importance of adopting standards for sexual health education. My peers and I developed fact sheets and handouts and met with legislators about our cause and how they could support us.

The climate crisis, like sex education, is a public health issue that is not often talked about or even acknowledged. As an advocate for public health, I am in the position to change the narrative surrounding climate change by educating others and encouraging their support.

Q: What was your biggest take away from the Speak for Health Advocacy Bootcamp?

A: The bootcamp showed me that my voice and my story matters. In most cases, when attempting to gain support from legislators, I am the expert on my issue, and I have a responsibility to educate them on my topic. As a public health student with a focus on the social determinants of health, I have a unique understanding of how where we live, work and play affects a wide range of health risks and outcomes.

Advocacy plays an integral role in transforming policies needed to advance public health initiatives. The more experience I gain in advocacy, the easier it becomes. I enjoy reaching out to my legislators about causes that are important, and I try to encourage others to do the same.

“By advocating for change as it relates to the climate crisis, I am also advocating for health equity.”–Sativa Banks

Q: What was your favorite or most rewarding part of the two-day bootcamp?

A: Aside from meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill, my favorite part of the boot camp was hearing from the different speakers. Each one provided me with valuable insight on the various ways that we can fight to make change in public health.

The most rewarding part of my experience was connecting with different people from all over the country, networking with students and professionals and hearing their stories. My peers from Ohio and I were able to connect with one another as we strategized in preparation for our meetings with legislators on day two.

Collaborating with people from different parts of the state allowed me to learn about the ways each of us is impacted by climate change. This provided valuable insight into just how important, and how necessary, it was for us to share our stories with legislators.

Q: How will you use what you learned at the bootcamp moving forward?

A: While the climate crisis affects us all, some populations – like low income and minority communities – experience more barriers to optimal health than others. It’s important to me that I use my voice to advocate for underserved communities. Informing my legislators about why change is needed and what they can do to make a difference is a way that I can do that. In advocating for change as it relates to the climate crisis, I am also advocating for health equity.

Learn more about how APHA is helping the next generation of public health professionals take action on climate change. And submit your application by Nov. 17 for the Center for Climate, Health and Equity’s new Student Champions for Climate Justice awards!