Nursing professor receives national environmental health award

Adelita Cantu, Ph.D., RN

SAN ANTONIO (May 7, 2019) ― Adelita G. Cantu, Ph.D., RN, from UT Health San Antonio, has received the Charlotte Brody Award. The award was presented May 7 by Health Care Without Harm. The  coalition seeks to reduce the environmental footprint of health care worldwide.

Charlotte Brody was a registered nurse, environmental activist and founder of Health Care Without Harm. The award recognizes nurses who go beyond everyday nursing to promote and protect environmental health.

An associate professor in the School of Nursing, Dr. Cantu has a passion for strengthening community health services, assessments and intervention. She has researched and published on such topics as environmental justice in Texas border colonias and in other communities, ecosystems and watersheds.

Educating students about the environment and public health

For this award, the organization considered that Dr. Cantu teaches UT Health San Antonio nursing students about climate change as a public health issue, using real-life examples from the San Antonio area.

Dr. Cantu co-developed the innovative EcoCamp to raise awareness among youth about climate change and sources of pollution. She also helped develop poverty simulations to educate nursing, medical and other health professions students about the challenges their patients often have in managing their health.

Most recently, with funding from the Aetna Foundation, Dr. Cantu developed the Youth Air Quality Academy in collaboration with local service organizations. The academy aims to educate and engage young people in protecting air quality for a healthier community. As part of the academy, each student conducts an “act of leadership.”

“These activities are not all mine. They were created through community relationships and collaborations,” Dr. Cantu said. “The beauty of what we can do as nurses is collaboration. If we want our patients to get better and for the community where they live to provide an environment in which patients can be healthy, we all have to work together.”

Local, national and international leadership

Dr. Cantu is a member and past board member of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. She is a founding board member of the International Association of Latino Nurse Faculty and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. And In 2016, Dr. Cantu was named a 2016 Presidential Award winner for excellence in teaching.

Locally, she served on the Climate and Equity Technical Group that developed San Antonio’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. In addition, she is an advisory member of SA Kids B.R.E.A.T.H.E., a city-funded project in which community health workers help children with asthma and their families develop asthma action plans to better manage the disease.

Dr. Cantu received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of the Incarnate Word, her master’s from Texas Woman’s University and her Ph.D. from UT Health San Antonio.

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