Climate change is putting children’s lives at risk

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
August 27, 2018

Our planet’s youngest members didn’t cause climate change — but they’ll be the ones who suffer most from it. A new study from the journal Pediatrics estimates that kids bear 88 percent of the burden of climate-change related diseases.[1]

To save thousands of young lives, it’s critical that the next generation of public health professionals double down on the fight against climate change.

Climate change hurts children in many ways. It leads to more severe and more frequent extreme weather events, like droughts and heat waves. Those harsh weather patterns diminish agricultural production and kill livestock.[2][3] Children need good nutrition to grow and develop properly, so limited access to food and water can have a disproportionate impact on their health. By 2030, nearly 100,000 additional children will die from malnutrition.[4]

Climate change also accelerates the spread of animal-borne diseases. Zika is a prime example. Warmer temperatures enable mosquitoes to breed and spread into new areas, enabling Zika to spread rapidly and across larger areas.[5] Babies born to women infected with Zika may struggle with seizure disorders, delayed motor functions, and mental handicaps for their entire lives.[6]

Clearly, climate change requires global attention.[7] That’s why at St. George’s, we offer public health programs that emphasize the “One Health” approach — the idea that human, animal, and environmental health are interconnected. It will be critical for future public health leaders to consider the One Health approach in the battle against climate change.

St. George’s has also partnered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to establish a “Regional Collaborating Center.”[8] This provides us with the opportunity to take the lead in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts across the Caribbean.[9]

Climate change is harming the entire planet — but it’s particularly hurting kids. We must do everything we can to stop it. 

 

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/08/health/climate-change-children-pediatrics-study/index.html

[2] http://www.bread.org/blog/climate-change-worsens-malnutrition

[3] https://archive.epa.gov/epa/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-agriculture-and-food-supply.html

[4] https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/08/health/climate-change-children-pediatrics-study/index.html

[5] https://climatenexus.org/climate-issues/health/climate-change-and-vector-borne-diseases/

[6] https://www.medicinenet.com/g00/microcephaly/article.htm?i10c.encReferrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8%3D&i10c.ua=1&i10c.dv=14

[7]https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Unless_we_act_now_The_impact_of_climate_change_on_children.pdf

[8] https://unfccc.int/about-us/regional-collaboration-centres/rcc-st-georges

[9] https://www.sgu.edu/news-and-events/st-georges-universitys-who-collaborating-center-for-environmental-and-occupational-health-re-designated-for-additional-four-years/

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