1. Section Editor(s): Kearney, Greg DrPH
  2. Editor

Article Content

Bridging Silos: Collaborating for Environmental Health and Justice in Urban Communities by Katrina Smith Korfmacher. 2019. Cambridge, MA; London, England: The MIT Press. ISBN: 978-0-262-53756-8. Available for free download at


In her timely new book, Bridging Silos: Collaborating for Environmental Health and Justice in Urban Communities (MIT Press), Dr Katrina Smith Korfmacher offers refreshing insight and social guidance for communities seeking help at a time when government programs are slow to respond to environmental injustices. Korfmacher provides the reader with a brief but excellent backdrop of the origins of the environmental justice movement. However, the aims of the book are really focused on the importance of building and strengthening local collaborative relationships while underscoring the critical role they play for bringing attention to resolving environmental injustices in urban communities.


To illustrate, the author provides 3 excellent, relevant and in-depth case study reviews of local environmental health initiatives, including (1) a housing-based approach to lead poisoning prevention in Rochester, New York; (2) efforts to promote a healthy built environment in Duluth, Minnesota; and (3) an initiative targeted at making local community health a key priority in decision making about transporting goods imported through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.


In each case study, Korfmacher meticulously describes how each community was successful in reframing long-standing environmental justice problems by placing emphasis on building government, community, and technical expert collaborations to produce significant systems changes by working outside established policy processes. Although there are only 3 individual case studies, the underlying principles provided in the book suggests that these same approaches could be applied in other contexts.


The reader will find each of the case studies in the book is well-written and described, providing guidance to assist both novice and expert advocates. The cases focus not only on the more "common" environmental injustices of pollution (eg, air or water), but also on the unequal distribution of environmental benefits that promote healthy lifestyles, such as lack of adequate open green space, parks, urban trees, walkable neighborhoods, and/or streets in underserved areas.


The title, Bridging Silos is a great metaphor for removing barriers and collaborating across systems and sectors to address environmental health disparities. Dr Korfmacher well describes that solutions to address these problems require "system change" to remove barriers and bridge silos between agencies through stakeholder collaborations that include agencies and groups. Suggestions are offered on how to include "citizen science" and incorporate data to support efforts as well.


In summary, the study cases demonstrate the incredible strength and potential of local action by underscoring the importance of meaningful community engagement as the cornerstone of environmental health initiatives. At a time when environmental victories seem to be lacking because of a lack of national political will, Korfmacher provides insight and clear perspective of hope for local efforts. The book is cross-disciplinary and should be read by public health practitioners, students, policy makers, community planners, environmental managers, and the community advocate looking for guidance. The book is available for free download through The MIT Press Open Access initiative at


Dr Greg Kearney is an associate professor of public health at East Carolina University, Brody School of Medicine, Department of Public Health. As an applied environmental public health researcher, he focuses on relevant environmental and occupational health concerns, issues, and threats that impact vulnerable and marginalized populations.


Greg Kearney, DrPH