What parents need to know about climate change and children’s health

Lifestyle Tuesday 02/July/2024 08:14 AM
By: StatePoint
What parents need to know about climate change and children’s health

Excessive heat. Emerging diseases. Severe storms and off-season illnesses. The environmental hazards associated with climate change threaten the physical and mental health of children and families — and can be a source of anxiety.

It’s not just speculation. Communities are already impacted by such climate change effects as heat illness from dangerous temperatures, asthma hospitalizations from earlier and more severe pollen seasons, and trauma from severe wildfires and storms.

“When we talk with parents about what’s good for their kids, part of our job is connecting the dots between our changing climate and their children’s health,” said Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, a pediatrician. “All children need exercise, nutritious food and stable communities to thrive. But climate change poses new challenges for our patients, from struggling to breathe due to wildfire smoke to flooded homes from extreme rainfall events to extreme heat. When we talk about the need to heal the planet, we are also talking about protecting our children’s ability to grow up in a safe, healthy world.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which has long recognized the impact of climate change on children, recently announced a new strategic initiative on environmental health and disaster readiness as a priority outlined by its Board of Directors for 2024. The AAP is recommending steps not only for communities and policy makers, but for families. Here are a few suggestions:

• Help your community adopt climate solutions. The AAP recommends a transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal. Join forces with a local group to help bring clean energy to your school, town, state or even country. The AAP also recommends that communities incorporate healthy transportation systems, including public transit and walkable, bikeable pathways that allow children to be outdoors and active. Families can get involved at the local level to help create safe routes to walk and bike where you live.

• Let kids know that their voices and advocacy can be powerful. Kids may be inspired to know that some of our most effective and powerful climate advocates today are children and youth. Support their engagement in local, state and national climate solutions.

• Reduce your own energy consumption and waste. Walking, biking, taking public transit, carpooling, and adopting a more plant-forward diet are all ways to help promote health for kids and the planet.

• Show them you care. Let kids know that their adult caregivers—parents and pediatricians included—are committed to climate action solutions that protect their health and their world.

More information is available at HealthyChildren.org.

“What is healthy for the planet is also healthy for children,” Dr. Ahdoot said. “Pediatricians and parents share the same goal—to protect children’s health today, and ensure that they have a healthy future in adulthood. Protecting our planet helps preserve a healthy world that can provide all children the nutrition, play, and community stability that they need to thrive.”