Environmental health fair debuts
On Saturday, the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown will be the site of the first Aquinnah Wampanoag Environmental Health Consumer Expo. In keeping with the theme of "Leading... Learning... Sharing," representatives from public health, healthy housing, and environmental government agencies, along with non-profit organizations and Island green businesses have been invited to the all-day exhibit.
Cynthia Robinson, Environmental Health Coordinator of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, says, "I'm hoping that residents of Martha's Vineyard will come away with more knowledge about environmental issues that are affecting them, and where to go for services and resources to better deal with those issues. That's the main thing."
Funded in part through a grant awarded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the event is free. Held in the newly renovated conference rooms of the Harbor View, it includes exhibits, guest speakers, and demonstrations.
Among the items featured will be a sanitizing outlet to reduce indoor pollutants, a dehumidifier for damp closets and basements, a solar lantern, and a walk-fit waist pack. More than a dozen offerings will be distributed throughout the day.
"Education and putting people in touch with resources can help them deal with the issues," says Ms. Robinson. "Certainly the Lyme and tularemia are important, as are issues concerning the quality of water on Martha's Vineyard, and chemical toxins at home - mold and moisture. Health problems stem from these issues that can be addressed. Hopefully, speakers will address the practical things that people can do at home that won't break the bank."
Martha's Vineyard has one of the highest rates of pneumonic tularemia infection in the world. From 2000 through 2006, there were 59 cases associated with the Vineyard, more than in the previous 50 years. Of those, 38 were tularemia of the lung, according to state Department of Public Health (DPH) officials. Cases generally begin to appear in May and tend to peak in June and run into July.
Alison Hinckley, PhD, who works with the division of vector-borne infectious disease at the Centers for Disease Control, is scheduled to report on her recent work on tularemia and other tick-borne diseases among the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head.
In addition to Ms. Hinckley's presentation, Susan Karol, chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service of Rockville, Md., will speak on other medical issues pertinent to native peoples.
"Our goal is to build and develop environmental health awareness within the Wampanoag Tribe," says Ron MacLaren, director of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Health Service. "And through that awareness, improve the health and well-being of tribal members, who live in all six towns on Martha's Vineyard. Because of this, it is the tribe's desire to share this opportunity with all Vineyard residents to gather together with speakers and exhibitors to share environmental health knowledge and make connections between healthy people, healthy homes, and a healthy environment. The more we learn, the better we can take care of ourselves and the environment."