Statement Of Dr. Helen Burns
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 23, 2003
Deputy Secretary for Health Planning and Assessment
Department of Health, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
I am pleased to be here on behalf of the Rendell Administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. We support the efforts of the EPA's Aging Initiative and will use this forum to inform the Department's work with the Pennsylvania health improvement plan which we call SHIP.
The planning process for Pennsylvania focuses on meeting the health needs of an aging population. The environment is one of the major determinants of human health and well being for the State. Environmental health should be much more than just the enforcement of standards and regulations. We are aware that policy and program decision making should be guided by being alert to the increasing life expectancy of Pennsylvania's citizens, but also that the expectation of living well in Pennsylvania is something we can all achieve. Also, the graying of the baby boomers, and I am not convinced we will do this gracefully. Also, the discovery that many of the infirmities associated with aging are not inevitable, and that the use of preventive services and elimination of risk factors and adoption of healthy lifestyles can have a major impact on us as we age.
The Department supports Interagency coordination, collaboration and cooperation. Also, we are supporting the creation of a research agenda for environmental health and support efforts to transfer that knowledge into policy. In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is involved with health tracking, one of 17 states selected to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a statewide environmental tracking program that will continue to connect with and develop a National Environmental Health Tracking Network.
We have convened a consortium of individuals from across the Commonwealth working with them to develop programs and planning that is standard-based and that is integrated. On behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of the Environment, thank you for this opportunity. I feel particularly connected with this initiative. I am the first in the line of my siblings, and I told them that I was coming here today. I don't like it when they call me "their older sister" so they came up with a new name for me which is "chronologically superior sibling." I will leave you with that to think about!