Briefing and Panel Discussion: Air Quality in Our Region - Better Isn’t Good Enough

Tuesday, December 9, 2014
9:00am to 10:30am EST
The Heinz Endowments
625 Liberty Ave
30th Floor
PA 15222
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Despite improvements over the past few decades, Pittsburgh’s air still ranks among the worst in the nation, and our region lags far behind most areas in attaining federal air quality standards. Air pollution — at levels measured today in Pittsburgh — is linked to a long list of serious health problems from cradle to grave, including asthma, heart and lung disease, cancer, adverse birth outcomes and even premature death. Poor air quality also directly impacts economic growth and development, as well as our region’s educational and workforce competitiveness.

Launched by The Heinz Endowment s in the fall of 2011, the Breathe Project is a coalition of residents, businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and many other groups that are working together to improve air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The session will open with welcome and introductory remarks by Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments.  He will be followed by Philip Johnson — interim director of The Heinz Endowments Environment Program and director of the Breathe Project — who will provide a brief overview of the Endowments’ current priorities related to air quality; successes in building awareness and changing practices in schools, the medical community, and business; and challenges that still lie ahead.

After the overview, Phil will engage a panel of community members in a conversation about how air quality affects the lives of residents and impacts health, education, economic development, and workforce development in our region.

Members of the Panel:

Chris Guignon

After spending three years as a designer and research fellow in the Boston office of architect Moshe Safdie, Chris returned to Pittsburgh to focus on more community-centric projects. He is currently an architectural designer at evolveEA, an environmentally-based architecture firm that works with residents, nonprofits, and communities to achieve sustainable goals through design. Chris has a deep interest in how the built environment informs our understanding of the world and how it shapes our future. His design research has focused on architectural resilience in an era of descent and sustainability as a fundamental framework for long-term design thinking.

Dr. Deborah Gentile

Dr. Deborah Gentile is Director of Research in the Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Allegheny Health Network and Professor of Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine. She has received funding from The Heinz Endowments to determine the prevalence of asthma in Pittsburgh school children and to explore the impact of environmental factors such as air pollution on asthma outcomes. She recently received a Healthcare Hero Award for Individual Physicians from the Pittsburgh Business Times for her work in this area.

Jody Handley

Jody is a Greene County native and the child of Pittsburgh natives, who has pursued careers in publishing (New York City) and software development in San Francisco. She recently moved her family back to Pittsburgh to take advantage of its location, beautiful homes, and opportunities. Since moving back, she’s spoken before the Allegheny County Health Department in the Liberty-Clairton area, begun her own Facebook campaign for reporting bad air quality to the ACHD and local politicians, worked with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab to test its Speck prototype for monitoring air quality, and recently appeared before City Council to address air quality in the City of Pittsburgh.