The AAP issued a statement regarding a new report to be released Monday detailing the adverse effects of global climate change on children’s health. Fortunately, the White House did not get it’s sharp-edged scissors on it.
Just days ago, reports surfaced lambasting the Bush White House for “eviscerating” CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding’s published Senate testimony on global climate change effects on health. Essentially all mention of likely ill effects on health were either eliminated or watered down. The usual mumbo-jumbo political excuse was given as a reason for the censorship, but some on the hill, and many scientists and public health advocates, are not giving up that easily.
In remarkably timely fashion, the AAP is offering its version of the truth (see the recommendations for pediatricians below). And all politics aside, there is solid evidence supporting the AAP report and claims that global warming and other climate changes are likely to have a tremendous impact on the health of our children.
Here are a handful of recent relevant publications:
– Ebi KL, Paulson JA: Climate change and children. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007 Apr;54(2):213-26, vii. Review. 36.
– United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization. Children in the New Millennium: Environmental Impact on Health. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Programme; 2002. Available at: www.unep.org/ceh. Accessed April 18, 2007
– Shea K. Global environmental change and children’s health: understanding the challenges and finding solutions. J Pediatr. 2003;143:149 –154
As Dr. Michael Lerner, founder of Commonweal, noted in our environmental health panel session at the Pangea Conference, we must “be a voice” for our children who cannot vote and cannot directly influence policy change. Deirdre Imus, participating in the same panel, agreed; in fact, she and I concluded in our recent piece in Explore on Environmental Injustice, “Children cannot protect themselves nor can they clean up an environment our society has created. Independently, they have no political or economic voice. It is our responsibility to insure that their environment is safe.” I’m glad that this is one area we all stand together.
From the AAP policy statement and technical report, “Global Climate Change and Children’s Health”:
RECOMMENDATIONS TO PEDIATRICIANS
Pediatricians are dedicated to the promotion and protec-
tion of children’s health. Climate change threatens the
health, welfare, and future of current and subsequent
generations of children. Pediatricians can incorporate
considerations of the effects of climate change on health
into their professional practice and personal lives in
many ways, including patient education, lifestyle prac-
tices, and political advocacy. Some possible approaches
might include the following.
1. Recognize and educate yourself about the links be-
tween child health and climate change. Existing an-
ticipatory guidance already incorporates many issues
that can help mitigate climate change. For example,
encouraging families and children to walk or ride
bicycles more may reduce automobile emissions.
2. Advocate for comprehensive local and national policies
that address climate change to improve the health of
children now and in the future. Educate elected officials
on the health risks to children from climate change;
write letters to the editor, attend public meetings, or
provide expert testimony. Work with local schools,
child care centers, community organizations, and busi-
nesses on projects that will help reduce GHGs. Support
policies to expand parks and green spaces, strengthen
public transport, improve sidewalks and bicycle lanes,
and create local award systems for energy-efficient busi-
nesses, buildings, organizations, and households.
3. Serve as a role model for practices that promote envi-
ronmental sustainability. Emphasize energy conserva-
tion in your workplace, encourage and model reduced
dependency on automobile travel, and consider the en-
vironmental and energy costs when making major pur-
chases for your practice or institution.
4. Help to build and support coalitions across disciplines
and institutions to search for novel, comprehensive
approaches to mitigate and adapt to climate change in
your community and region. Work with local and
state health departments to strengthen public health
infrastructure, disease surveillance and reporting, and
5. Work to ensure that concepts related to the pediatric
health implications of climate change are part of
pediatric training and curricula.