Children's environmental health

National profiles

Photos: Fiona Gore, WHO

A number of countries have recognized the need to better identify, characterize and assess environmental influences and effects on their children’s health and development. This information is useful to countries and communities as a basis (evidence) for setting priorities for action, planning interventions and evaluating progress made. The preparation of a “national children's environmental health profile” (or rapid assessment) on the status of children’s health and the environment - including chemical risks-, enables countries to collect, analyze and use relevant information in a relatively fast and cost efficient manner. The methodology proposed is suited for obtaining knowledge on the main environmental threats present in the settings where children live, learn, play and work. It also enables countries to identify existing resources and key partners in the promotion of children’s environmental health.

These rapid assessments are primarily based upon input from government ministries and their responses to a set of questions on various themes.

Other input may also come from:

  • Review of publications and reports.
  • Input of experts in different areas related to children’s health.
  • Observation of the settings where children spend most of their time.

The outputs of rapid assessments are primarily qualitative and descriptive, and will complement the more in-depth quantitative efforts to assess children’s environmental health through the use of indicators. A number of pilot activities on the use of rapid assessments to prepare national profiles have been undertaken in 18 American and six African countries in 2003. The national profiles on children's environmental health elaborated through the rapid assessments are currently used as the basis for identifying country priorities, developing strategies and planning action to improve children's environmental health in countries.

The guidance document enables countries and communities to assess in a harmonized manner the status of children's health and the environment.