Children’s Health Protection is a Critical Measure of Success in Addressing Climate Change

By Rebecca Rehr
The voices of health professionals on climate solutions have been steadily rising and the health sector is stepping up to mitigate our own climate impact as an integral part of our commitment to improve human health. On September 12, 2018, Climate for Health joined dozens of leading health organizations representing more than five million doctors, nurses, and public health professionals, and 17,000 hospitals, in more than 120 countries to make commitments and unveil a Call to Action on Climate and Health.  The Call to Action was released as part of the Global Climate and Health Forum, an affiliate event of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), and include plans for health professionals to take meaningful action to protect public health from climate change and advocate for climate solutions. ecoAmerica and Climate for Health are also working with our partners to help them take similar steps.

“With the right policies and investments today, we have the opportunity to realize our vision of healthy people in healthy places on a healthy planet.”[1]

  Organizations and leaders in the spotlight at GCAS focused on carbon mitigation tactics, but we must also discuss how to measure success of these tactics. One critical measure of success in addressing climate change should be protecting children’s health. Another event held in conjunction with GCAS, Children’s Health, the Measure of Success when Addressing Climate Solutions – A Discussion of What We Know, Don’t Know & Need to Know, convened a diverse group of climate scientists and children’s health experts to explore the topic. During her keynote address at the event, Gina McCarthy, former EPA Administrator and Director of C-CHANGE, reminded us that kids should be the focus of our discussions on climate change because they make it personal.  Climate change science is established and strong, and now it is up to us to engage people by making the facts personal. Children are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We now have a better understanding of the ways air pollution from fossil fuels is impacting brain development, and that reducing air pollution creates measureable improvements in lung development. Children’s mental and physical health are also threatened by the far-reaching effects of climate change, including community instability and mass migrations. Socioeconomic factors put children in low-income populations and communities of color at even greater risk. McCarthy poignantly stated, “Pollution isn’t an equal opportunity killer – it actually focuses on our children and our elderly because they’re the ones that are most susceptible to the impacts.  It focuses on low income and minority communities.  We have left people behind and our goal now…is to make sure that front and center is the equity issue.” Taking climate action to improve children’s environmental health gives them the opportunity to reach their full potential. And by protecting the most vulnerable, we are creating a better society for everyone. October is Children’s Health Month, which provides another opportunity to focus on the ways climate change is impacting children’s health. We invite you to join us on Children’s Environmental Health Day and throughout the month to promote climate solutions we can implement to improve children’s health.

[1]A Call to Action on Climate and Health https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ad4c58be2ccd1dbbc7a094b/t/5b9826f8575d1f453678a44f/1536698104984/call-to-action.pdf Rebecca Rehr is the Program Manager for Climate for Health. Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Want to get our blog direct to your inbox? Subscribe today!  

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