Sunday, April 22, 2007

Teresa Heinz Kerry Blog Tour: Day 9

We here at the Unofficial Kerry Blog are honored to participate in this blog tour in support of the Conference on Women's Health and the Environment held in Pittsburgh on Friday and sponsored by the Heinz Family Philanthropies. This year's conference was covered by energetic livebloggers at The Democratic Daily , Democracy Cell Project and DailyKos -- which had one diary for liveblogging the morning sessions and another for the afternoon sessions. Check out those posts and their comments threads for links to valuable information about the environment, our health and the concrete actions we can take.

Before moving to the interview, I want to mention that there is now also a dedicated website, Women's Health and the Environment, at which you can find many of the materials that were given to conference attendees and other tools and resources designed to enable both conference attendees and those of us who could not attend to take action in our own lives and to continue the conversation that was begun at the conference.

And now for the interview! As I blogged in some detail here last month, I especially admire Teresa Heinz Kerry's passionate determination to bring people together: fostering collaborations, bringing everyone to the table, and giving the public access to the latest information from the experts, so that together we can take action on these issues and make informed and enlightened choices in our own lives. I decided to focus on that aspect of her work in my 3 questions, and THK's answers were, as expected, thoughtful and down to earth.

KVH: You’ve been sponsoring conferences on Women’s Health and the Environment since 1996. Are there any particular success stories you want to share?

THK: I am so proud of the fact that what began as a conference with 700+ women attending, is now averaging close to 2,000. In addition, we know that at least 40%+ of the attendees come back year after year. The fact that women and the men who attend are that interested every year is, by itself, a success story.

Second, the conferences have spurred a number of professional collaborations that assist those from the research community and ensure that they are both not reinventing the wheel, as well as maximizing the use of their grant dollars. This occurred because speakers at the conference compare notes, and in some cases, create new collaborative efforts to maximize their impact.

Third, our conference has helped launch a number of speakers into the mainstream, where the media finds out about them and helps increase their visibility – and, more important, their message. In the end, women learn more and we are able to increase the number of women we can reach.

Finally, we added the Pittsburgh conference this year, and I hope we will add more in the future!

KVH: What one issue concerning health and the environment should women especially educate themselves about?

THK: It is hard to pick one issue, but toxins would have to be the one I would encourage all women to focus on. The thought that we have toxins in food, cosmetics, water, and air can be overwhelming, but we do have some control over what goes into or onto our bodies.

Several organizations have set up online resource centers for consumer awareness. The Safe Cosmetics Campaign has a linked page, put together by the Environmental Working Group, where you can check out the products we all use, to see what toxins they contain.

Food concerns are on all our minds lately. Check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest; they maintain up-to-the-minute information on food toxins. The first rule about food: the more processed the food is, the greater the possibility it is dangerous. When you can, eat as much locally grown and organic food as possible.

I am told that almost all freshwater fish is contaminated in some ways, but eating fish is still healthier than an all-meat diet. Keep up with the latest on which fish are better and which are worse for you at:

In general, the lower on the food chain a fish is, the safer it is to eat. Those fish at the top of food chain (swordfish is a good example) have fewer predators and therefore accumulate toxins over time.

KVH: In the first issue of your newsletter Women’s Health and Environment News, you talk about the need to move towards collaborative solutions to the problem of managing chemicals – bringing all interested parties to the table instead of relying on post-exposure litigation as the main mechanism for regulating chemicals. Do you have any more specific thoughts or proposals for how we can move forward in that direction?

THK: A number of years ago, the Heinz Center was created to focus on issues that are likely to confront policymakers within two to five years. The Center creates and fosters collaboration among industry, environmental organizations, academia, and government in each of its program areas and projects. The active involvement of these four sectors in all aspects of environmental policymaking—from identification of a problem through the crafting of recommendations to implementation of a policy—produces robust solutions to the environmental challenges that face the Nation. This philosophy, and its implementation in the Center’s everyday operations, means that leading policymakers and practitioners from government, industry, environmental organizations, and universities are able to work together to identify pressing environmental challenges and to agree upon ways of meeting those challenges. This is a model that has a proven track record – and one that allows all parties, whether they agree or not, to come together to seek solutions.

I'd like to thank Teresa Heinz Kerry for making a blog tour stop here. Be sure to tune in tomorrow when the blog tour comes to Culture Kitchen!


Anonymous Kerstin said...

Thank you, Karen. This is another great blog interview with THK - not to be missed!
Another great link to bookmark, too!

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great interview, Karen!
The Women's Health and the Environment Conference was incredible. The presentations were informative and surprisingly, the biologist, Dr Hayes, was extremely entertaining. Who knew frogs could be so much fun?
Fran Drescher was awesome, too, as was the fabulous THK.
I'm so grateful to Mrs. Heinz Kerry for holding the conference in our home town for the Rachel Carson Centennial. Pittsburgh reciprocated by providing the attendees with beautiful weather and a great GREEN convention center in which to hold the conference.
I put my thoughts on the conference in a music video.
It's the feature video on my channel.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Otter said...

Speaking as one of the 2,000 people in attendance at the Conforence on Women's Health & the Environment in Pittsburgh on Friday, I can definitely attest to those success stories.

A selection of excellent speakers and panelists presented a great deal of information on the environmental health issues women deal with every day, making even the dry technical details interesting. The information packets the attendees received included tool kits and resource guides that will continue to be useful even though the conference itself has come and gone.

And it wasn't just the presenters and scientists who were networking at this event -- a number of people stopped by the table where we were live-blogging the event, and several gave us excellent sources and leads to follow up on as we continue to write about the issues THK is discussing in these blog tour interviews.

The Pittsburgh conference was indeed a great success, and THK deserves a great deal of credit for sponsoring this ongoing conference series. I'm grateful to her for making it possible for me to learn so much and meet so many people in the course of a single day, and I'm already looking forward to the next one!

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Kerryvisionary said...

Excellent questions, following on from your original post about THK's style of collaboration and information-sharing among many different sectors of society.

THK's answers are thorough and full of wisdom. A truly thought-provoking and valuable interview!

5:09 PM  
Anonymous democrafty said...

It's really amazing how influential the Conference has become. I have friends from high school calling me about their experiences there. Well done, Mrs. HK!

1:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home