Children's environmental health

Capacity building

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Environmentally-related childhood diseases represent an enormous global public health problem, particularly in developing countries and impoverished communities, where there is often lack of awareness and knowledge about the effects of chemicals and other environmental hazards on children’s health.

WHO recognizes the need to educate and train health care providers at all levels in the prevention, diagnosis and management of children’s diseases linked to environmental risk factors. Efforts are undertaken to enable those “in the front line”, the health professionals dealing with children and adolescents’ health, to recognize, assess and prevent diseases linked to, or triggered by environmental factors. Even in the most advanced countries, education of health care providers on environmental health issues tends to be limited or just non-existent. Furthermore, materials designed for use in developed countries are not suitable in developing countries, where the environmental conditions of children are different.

The Bangkok Statement (Area 2: Health and Research) urges WHO to promote the recognition, assessment and study of environmental factors that have an impact on the health and development of children. More specifically, to incorporate children’s environmental health into the training of health care providers, and to promote the use of the Pediatric Environmental History. To this effect, WHO is planning and implementing a number of training activities and undertaking the preparation of information and training materials. The work is done by experienced professionals from both developed and developing countries that prepare and/or review the draft materials on specific topics and participate in the related peer-review, testing and training activities. Training workshops provide an opportunity to increase communications between professionals from different parts of the world and enhance the potential for developing collaboration schemes in research areas. Once the materials are approved and harmonized, plans are in hand for making them widely available both in printing and on the web, the activities include:

  • Handbook on Children’s Environmental Health - a collection of information that focus mainly on the needs of developing countries, inspired on the Green Book of the American Academy of Paediatrics (published 2005).
  • Training Package for Health Providers - internationally harmonized modules on key issues for paediatricians and paediatric nurses, family and public health professionals.
  • The Paediatric Environmental History Taking - a set of basic and concise questions, part of the standard medical history, that enable health professionals to identify and record children’s risks of exposure to environmental threats in different settings.
  • Leaflets for health care providers - concise information on what health care professionals should know about selected environmental risks (e.g. water pollution, lead, chemicals……) Their preparation is done in close cooperation with the International Paediatric Association (IPA).