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Can I pick’em or what? Today, the Environmental Media Association (EMA) announced that Matt Damon (actor, screenwriter, producer and more) will receive their Ongoing Commitment Award for his work with Water.org at the 23rd Annual EMA Awards ceremony. As you might recall…or are soon to find out, I recognized Damon’s water work in a post on March 13, 2013. #ijs

But, enough about Matt Damon (for now), this post is about the EMA and its school garden program. Like Damon’s focus on water, this program has a direct link to environmental health as defined in (very current, very popular) public health circles.

Healthy Environments Linked to Healthy People

Not every focus on the environment is also a focus on people’s health. For example, at the same EMA ceremony, Hayden Panettiere (actress, singer, model and more) will be recognized for her work with The Whaleman Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to “preserving and protecting our ocean world” with a focus on “issues that affect cetaceans (dolphins, whales & porpoises).” While we rely on healthy oceans for our own health (among other things), this organization’s emphasis on animals is not a direct human health focus. (Disagree? Please tell me why.)

According to Healthy People 2020:

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines environment, as it relates to health, as ‘all physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related behaviors.’ Environmental health consists of preventing or controlling disease, injury, and disability related to the interactions between people and their environment.

Focusing on this aspect of health is important because:

Globally, nearly 25 percent of all deaths and the total disease burden can be attributed to environmental factors. Environmental factors are diverse and far reaching. They include:

  • exposure to hazardous substances in the air, water, soil or food
  • natural and technological disasters
  • physical hazards
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • the built environment

Mary Louise-Parker with the Environmental Media Association School Garden Program (credit: EMA website)

The EMA’s School Garden Program Promotes Healthy Students (in more ways than one)

Launched in 2009, the Environmental Media Association’s School Garden Program is a collaboration between the EMA, LA Conservation Corps, LAUSD and (as of what’s on their website today) 16+ schools. The program inspires students with a fun and dynamic laboratory (i.e., the garden) in which they can apply lessons and learn about science, math, nutrition, the environment and more. The EMA’s web page for the program mentions evidence linking student participation in environment-based education programs, like gardens, to healthier food choices, and more physical activity, greater self-confidence, and other beneficial outcomes, hooray!

EMA’s funding and celebrity mentoring leverage the power of  entertainment and mass media (which is part of their mission) to gain students’ attention and encourage them to be healthy and engage in a positive way with the environment.

So, if you are looking for a new way to help students be healthy via their environment (among other education-related goals), start a school garden program!

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