Climate and Health Champions Previous Awardees

2020 | 2019 | 2018

The 2020 AWARDEES:

Individual Category: David DubeDavid

David Dube recently retired after 36 years in the public health field, working in diverse areas such as women and children's health, built environment, behavioral and mental health. and livable communities. Among his most valued accomplishments is linking climate change and public health, and especially promoting active, livable communities. Arizona needs to expect substantive impact to communities that are especially vulnerable to climate change impacts, and David commits to continued climate action.

Individual Category: Vjollca BerishaVjollca

Vjollca has worked in the area of Climate and Health at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health for the last 15 years. During those 15 years, she has completed numerous projects to help bring attention to those most affected by extreme heat as well as convene people from all over Maricopa County who are working in the area of Climate and Health. Some of the projects Vjollca has worked on throughout her 15 years include establishing MCDPH Heat Surveillance Program, Evaluating the Cooling Centers, CASPER, Identifying the barriers of Homebound Individuals coping with extreme heat, and Identifying the barriers of those Living in Mobile Homes experience during the extreme heat.

In addition to those projects, she has also for the last 5 years worked on establishing a regional plan, known as Bridging Climate Change and Public Health, to bring people from all different agencies and backgrounds together to try and tackle the problem together. During these 5 years, she has brought together hundreds of individuals and dozens of different agencies and companies all intending to help those most affected by climate change.

Research Category: Cliff Anderson

Cliff has been the research action team leader for the last two years. During that time, he has kept the group moving forward in accomplishing its goals. During the two years with Cliff as one of the action team leaders, the group built a knowledge repository of published researched articles that researched climate and health in the Southwest. In addition to the knowledge repository, the group also completed a gap analysis of the research articles identified.

Youth Category: SenseHydro

SenseHydro LLC consists of a total of 9 high schoolers. This is a group of youth and mentors developing a hydrothermal hat with sensors to monitor vital signs in hopes of reducing heat deaths in Maricopa County. SenseHydro has been working on this project for approximately 1.5 years. This student-led group has received multiple grants received from MIT, ASU (HUE) and Arizona Tech Council, and Intel. SenseHydro is currently working on a prototype and hopes to test the product in the summer of 2021, with the hopes of selling this item to community residents and also donating to those most vulnerable to heat illness.

Organization Category: CHISPA

CHISPA works on climate justice, with a special focus on Latinx communities in South and West Phoenix within Maricopa County. As a program of the League of Conservation Voters, CHISPA Arizona uses innovative approaches to grassroots organizing centered on 1) demanding clean air and a healthy climate, 2) conserving parks and public lands, and 3) building democracy and community power – which together provide climate and public health benefits to underserved communities.

CHISPA has been building healthy community infrastructure by designing spaces that reduce the heat island effect, planting trees to provide shade, educate themselves and community members about climate change and extreme heat, and strategically plan the location of cooling centers in South Phoenix.

The 2019 awardees:

Organization Category:Az Youth Climate Strike

Arizona Youth Climate Strike (AZYCS)

Arizona Youth Climate Strike (AZYCS) is a climate justice organization led entirely by youth, focused on ensuring a safe and healthy environment for all people living in Arizona. AZYCS members are committed to working with state and local elected officials to pass green legislation to help transition Arizona into a sustainable state that addresses the climate crisis. To draw attention to this important issue, AZYCS held a Climate Strike on March 15, 2019, at the Arizona State Capitol, where hundreds of young people and adults joined together to demand action from elected officials to address climate change. AZYCS also has held events to help voters and youth engage with their legislators, city council members, and other local officials to discuss steps Arizona governments at all levels can take to preserve the environment. A strong advocate for solar energy, AZYCS feels transitioning the grid to clean and affordable electricity will not only benefit residents but will attract companies with renewable energy goals to the state, bringing more jobs to Arizona. In future years of advocacy, AZYCS hopes to amplify the voices from other communities across the state, recognizing climate change disproportionately impacts rural, indigenous, or majority low-income areas.

"Being recognized for such a key award is not only an honor, but also a step in the right direction for us as a community." -Aditi Narayanan, AZYCS co-founder.

Business Category:

Selrico Services, IncSelrico, Inc.

Selrico Services Inc. is the food services contractor for meal deliveries to homebound individuals served by the Area Agency on Aging in Maricopa County. In 2016, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) in conjunction with Arizona State University, the Area Agency on Aging, and the City of Phoenix, conducted a study to determine the vulnerabilities of homebound individuals when extreme heat occurs. In order to adequately assess the needs of this population, it was suggested that the staff of Selrico Services Inc would be an ideal partner for the survey outreach. Thanks to their efforts, 1,300 surveys were distributed of which 472 (36%) were completed. These data helped increase understanding of homebound individuals’ needs of cooling systems at their residence; knowledge of available community programs/services, such as nearby cooling centers and utility assistance; and the barriers to accessing these services. Selrico continues to provide information to its homebound customers about the dangers of extreme heat and how to protect themselves. During the 2019 heat season the Selrico team distributed over 1,100 Heat Safety Cards (English and Spanish) designed by MCDPH, which listed community services and resources.

"This nomination is in the spirit of recognition and thankfulness to the staff of Selrico for the important service and knowledge that they continue to provide to a vulnerable population within our community.” - Nominating agency 

Individual Category:

Cindy GentryCindy Gentry

Cindy Gentry has been a fixture for more than two decades in local farmers markets and is widely recognized for her work in hunger prevention and healthy food systems development. Cindy has been a champion for Arizona small growers, asserting they are best suited to deliver locally grown fruits and vegetables to families living in the many ‘food deserts’ in Maricopa County. She also deeply cares about the health of Maricopa County residents, especially vulnerable populations. To help increase accessibility and improve health outcomes, Cindy helped growers qualify for SNAP benefit electronic processing so that low-income families could use their benefits to purchase local farmers market food. As president of Sun Produce Cooperative, the first agricultural cooperative of its kind in Arizona, Cindy works with nine Maricopa County growers to market, aggregate, and distribute their produce to institutional buyers such as school districts, mobile markets, corner stores, employee wellness programs, and others. Cindy’s efforts not only help to preserve existing green space, but also improve air quality by reducing fossil fuels associated with food transportation.

“I am extraordinarily proud to work for a public health department that champions climate change as an integral part of its purview, and which allows me to do the work I do.” -Cindy Gentry

Research Category:

Dr. Jennifer VanosJennifer Vanos

Dr. Jennifer Vanos is an Assistant Professor with Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability and Senior Sustainability Scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. New and ongoing research within Dr. Vanos’ lab involves studies of heat, radiation, humidity, and air pollution in play spaces; how these exposures may affect children’s physical activity; and how health symptoms are directly or indirectly affected by these exposures. The current design of most modern playgrounds has resulted in a lack of shade, extreme surface temperatures, and thermal burns, all of which intensify ultraviolet (UV) exposure and heat radiated from surfaces towards young children. Future work will involve examining the differences in exposures between current and new natural, vegetated playground designs to mitigate heat, radiation, and air pollution, and subsequent effects on health and activity. This research aims to improve the environmental safety, playability, and outdoor learning opportunities of play areas in a desert climate through evidence-based environmental and health measurements.

“I’m very honored to be selected to receive this prestigious award, and it feels great that some of our new work and ideas are being recognized by the county. We are very excited for what the next few years of results will show.” -Dr. Jennifer Vanos

Youth Category:aditi

Aditi Narayanan

Aditi Narayanan has spent the past four years of her high school career in the arenas of political advocacy, civic engagement, and public service. Aditi founded the Prickly Pear Progressive, a blog addressing government and public policy initiatives across the state, including topics such as climate education. She recruited a small group of like-minded friends who started with neighborhood cleanups and education events, such as showing community members how to recycle their old bicycle parts and properly dispose of old Christmas trees. The group formalized into Zero Hour Phoenix, a name chosen to note that now was ‘zero hour’ to act on climate change. Aditi helped lead efforts to organize the first Arizona Youth Climate Strike held March 15th at the Arizona State Capitol and spearheaded a campaign for local politicians to take the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, requiring elected officials and candidates to not take money from big oil corporations. Through the collective efforts of Aditi and others from Zero Hour Phoenix, more than 100 student ambassadors have joined as volunteers, 50 new voters have registered, and eight (and counting!) politicians have taken the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.

“Recognizing that climate justice is a need--and also must be combatted from an intersectional lens incorporating racial and economic justice--is a key component in battling environmental issues. I’d like to say thank you to the Maricopa County Office of Public Health and express my excitement in their partnership with us for future action!” -Aditi Narayanan

The following is a list of ALL award nominees. Thank you for your hard work in making Maricopa County a healthier place to live, learn, work and play!

Individual Category:

  • Cecelia Araiza
  • Cindy Gentry
  • Cliff Danley and Isaac Healis
  • Isaac Healis
  • Doug Bland
  • Greg Peterson
  • Lauren Kuby
  • Maggie Messerschmidt

Youth Category:

Research Category:

  • Anthony Brazel
  • David Hondula
  • Jennifer Vanos
  • Mona Arora
  • HeatReady Phoenix

The 2018 awardees:

Organization Category:

Pinnacle Prevention

pinnacle-logo Opens in new windowPinnacle Prevention is an Arizona-based nonprofit organization dedicated to growing healthy families and communities. Under the incredible leadership of executive director Adrienne Udarbe, Pinnacle Prevention is responsible for implementing the Double Up Food Bucks program in Arizona. Double Up Food Bucks helps Arizonans who use SNAP/EBT (formerly food stamps) bring home more fresh fruits and vegetables while supporting local farmers. This program is ultimately championing a sustainable food system, which is critical for improving health equity and combating the effects of climate-related health hazards in our state.

“The Double Up AZ program doubles the value of SNAP/EBT (formerly food stamps) benefits used at farmers markets across Arizona, helping people bring home more healthy fruits and vegetables while supporting local farmers.” -Adrienne Udarbe, Pinnacle Prevention.

Business Category:

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick

salt-river-fields-logo Opens in new windowAt the onset of the 2018 Spring Training Season, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, owned and operated by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, partnered with Major League Baseball and Arizona State University to launch a “Recycle Rally” initiative to analyze waste stream practices within the ballpark. With input from sustainability partners, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick will continue to adopt ecofriendly best practices such as composting, recycling, and other zero waste strategies. Additionally, throughout the Spring Training Season, Salt River Fields had the unique opportunity to engage with over 300,000 fans from across the country by providing fun, interactive educational activities to promote recycling and waste reduction practices.

“Sustainability and the environment have always been at the forefront at Salt River Fields, as we are a LEED Gold Certified facility, and taking care of our environment is a critical mission for the Salt River Community and both of our teams. We are proud to be recognized as an environmental champion!” -Dave Dunne, Salt River Fields.

Individual Category:

Stacey Champion

stacey-championStacey Champion is a dedicated and passionate community and environmental advocate in the Valley. For nearly 20 years, Champion has dedicated her time and effort to protecting and improving the environment in Arizona. Champion is the owner of Champion PR + Consulting, and she formerly operated her own environmental consulting firm for 10 years. She has consistently worked on projects and initiatives, both professionally and as a volunteer, directly tied to climate change and environmental justice. She has served on numerous environmental boards and committees throughout the years and has written many articles on sustainability and environmental issues. Champion’s dedication and repeated action is unmatched. She continuously makes the environment her priority, and with her on its side, Arizona will continue to take steps toward climate-resiliency and health equity.

“Those of us who donate countless hours over many years to help educate, inspire and engage the community because we care, often go unnoticed, so this {award} was a lovely surprise. I truly believe every single one of us has the opportunity to make a difference, big or small”. -Stacey Champion.

Youth Category:

Trevor G. Browne High School Students Taking a New Direction (STAND) Coalition

STAND-logo Opens in new windowTrevor G. Browne (TGB) STAND coalition members have been diligently working in their community since 2013 to bring change by shaping policy, systems and environment to foster clean air and healthy living. The coalition has been actively working to make El Oso park tobacco-free. The youth presented a tobacco-free policy initiative to the Parks and Rec Board which was approved for two years. They presented an update on their two-year pilot tobacco-free policy at El Oso…which assured the continuation of the tobacco-free park policy…. TGB STAND youth have conducted regular surveys, observations and park cleanups since the inception of the pilot program. In addition, they organized a health fair and participated in others to inform the community about the tobacco-free policy at El Oso.

“Being given the Climate and Health Champion Award means the Trevor G. Browne S.T.A.N.D. students recognized for making a positive impact in our community and we will continue to do so! Thank you for the opportunity and for recognizing their efforts!” -Christina Salazar, School Counselor

The following is a list of ALL award nominees. Thank you for your hard work in making Maricopa County a healthier place to live, learn, work and play!

Individual Category:

  • Stacey Champion
  • Jillian Feltham
  • David Hondula
  • Cynthia Zwick

Youth Category:

  • Ironwood High School Students Taking a New Direction (STAND) anti-tobacco youth coalition
  • Trevor G. Browne High School Students Taking a New Direction (STAND) anti-tobacco youth coalition