The American Academy of Pediatrics is concerned about the effect of climate change on children and released a statement detailing how that burden is falling disproportionately on this vulnerable population and their growing minds and bodies. The World Health Organization estimates that 88% of the existent burden of disease attributable to climate change occurs in children younger than five years-old. Children in developing countries are particularly impacted by the environmental changes, and kids finds themselves at the mercy of heat-related illnesses, worsening asthma symptoms, and infectious diseases. The AAP’s statement addresses how climate change is causing these health hazards in obvious as well as more indirect ways, asking pediatricians worldwide to take a more active role in preparing families and children for the continued and evolving changes.

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Giving examples such as more frequent and more severe weather patterns, including storms and heat waves that cause an immediate threat to children’s health and safety, the AAP first cites the most direct way in which children are affected by climate change: being younger, smaller, and more reliant on parents or caregivers puts children at a disadvantage for staying safe, surviving and coping during climate-related disasters. Secondly, the AAP discusses how shifting patterns in nature are also affecting children. For example, increased plant pollen concentration, a longer allergy season, air quality-related asthma issues, and an expansion of infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and its tick hosts in previously exempt areas of the world all have an effect on the rising rates of a variety of health conditions. Finally, the AAP discusses some of the less obvious societal impacts and the resulting health risks that occur as a result of climate change. Citing sea level rise, a dearth of available water or food, and mass migration, the statement mentions the mental health implications for children as a result of these challenging living situations and from living in a fragile and unstable society. Children living in communities that are already at a socioeconomic disadvantage are expected to be especially impacted by these changes.

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Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, the author of the study, calls upon pediatricians to lead the charge in educating the public and modeling environmentally friendly behaviors to reduce carbon emissions as well as preparing families for emergencies and disasters. According to Ahdoot, “climate policy is health policy,” and the AAP additionally urges lawmakers and government bodies to fund research on the effects of climate change on health while promoting education and eco-friendly efforts including renewable energy sources.

+ AAP’s Statement

via Medical Daily

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