Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Receives Prestigious Award
[Rachel's Introduction: New Orleans Environmental Justice Activist Anne Rolfes has received the $125,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award. Hats off to Anne!]
Author Name: 
By

PRINCETON, NJ -- For more than eight years, Anne Rolfes, founder of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) has worked with residents in Louisiana to mitigate the impact of polluted air and contaminated soil. Members of the Bucket Brigade have learned to collect and test soil and air samples and amass data that clearly illustrate the link between the foul substances and myriad health problems suffered by residents in the surrounding areas.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is honoring Rolfes for her leadership and advocacy in environmental health. She is one of 10 outstanding individuals from across America to receive the Foundation's 2007 Community Health Leaders (CHL) award. Each CHL receives $105,000 to further the work of their program and a $20,000 personal award.

Under Rolfes' direction the LABB developed the largest collection of community gathered air samples in the U.S. and documented hundreds of violations of state and federal air quality standards. Rolfes, a former Peace Corps volunteer, enlisted the aid of a physician and researchers to develop a low cost community-friendly survey to document the health symptoms and unequivocal evidence of the connection between the contamination and pollution and the health of the people who live in the areas surrounding the facilities.

Now Rolfes and the residents advocate for pollution control, health protections and fair compensation for contaminated properties so that residents can relocate from the affected neighborhoods and communities, most of which pre-date the existence of the plants and offending facilities.

Rolfes' environmental health advocacy began in Nigeria, where she documented the environmental and health destruction of the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta. Her work with Ogoni refugees resulted in their resettlement from refugee camps and their destroyed environment.

"It is tremendously exciting to meet Anne Rolfes and learn about her work," said Janice Ford Griffin, Community Health Leaders director. "Anne's work is an example of the many efforts underway in communities throughout the nation to take action to address their own problems by creating new approaches and solutions, and demanding changes in outdated systems and institutions. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders are the vanguard for assuring quality health for all citizens."

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders awards $1.25 million each year to health leaders who have surmounted personal and other obstacles to improve health and health care at the community level. Rolfes and other awardees for 2007 were honored at an event on October 3 in Washington, D.C.

Since 1992, the program has distributed 150 awards in 47 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. Those chosen are nominated by civic leaders, health professionals, government representatives, and others inspired by their efforts to provide essential health services to their communities. This year's award winners come from urban and rural areas of California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, New York and Puerto Rico.

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2008-09 Community Health Leaders. Visit www.communityhealthleaders.org for more information.