Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund (CVNMEF) conducted an HIA to examine how switching from diesel to electric school buses could affect the health of residents in Rio Arriba and McKinley counties, where air quality is particularly poor compared with the rest of the state. The HIA focused on addressing social and economic drivers of health and engaged a broad range of stakeholders, including immigrant rights advocacy groups, transportation organizations, and community members.
The HIA found that adopting electric school buses would decrease respiratory illness, stress, and depression among children and their families and increase student well-being, leading to stronger social networks and improved school performance. These effects would result in higher graduation rates among students, fewer days of work missed by parents, and higher employer satisfaction.
Recommendations included encouraging school districts to reduce student exposure to air pollutants through measures such as enforcing idling restrictions and drawing on funds from the state Volkswagen settlement to invest in electric school bus technology. The HIA also recommended funding for after-school tutoring and certified nursing staff to support students who miss class because of asthma or other respiratory illnesses exacerbated by air pollution.
In July 2019, the New Mexico Environment Department revised the state’s Volkswagen settlement mitigation plan to allow school districts to apply for funding to purchase electric school buses. To date, at least one district is considering applying for the funding, and several rural districts are examining alternative-fuel buses.
The HIA helped bring about a more comprehensive examination of transportation impacts on health, job security, and educational attainment in rural and urban areas.
This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.