Climate change’s health effects are most strongly felt in Environmental Justice (EJ) communities which are predominantly people of color. This results in a disproportionate burden of climate change health effects on EJ communities. Climate change is a public health crisis, and more importantly to pediatricians – it is a pediatric public health crisis. We are five pediatricians who are part of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Climate Advocate Program representing four diverse regions; Colorado, California, Puerto Rico, and North Carolina. We are applied research practitioners, as we live in the world between academic research and clinical practice. We are natural advocates to ensure that the future world is rebuilt with children’s health, especially children of EJ communities, at the center. Each of us has seen the direct effects of climate change adversely impact EJ Communities. In this article, we will briefly review the literature on the dangers that children face in the air they breathe, the lack of natural green spaces, and the increasingly hostile built environments, especially to children in EJ communities. We will review opportunities in our local areas to change the built environment that will work toward reducing carbon emissions and increase overall pediatric health. We will illustrate the commonalities that helped us succeed as Climate Advocates including collaboration, working locally, and purposefully choosing to identify ourselves as climate advocates and child-advocates. The intersection between public health, policy, and medicine will now become increasingly important as we head into this new decade and approach the point of no return on climate change.
Key Take Away Points
- Climate change’s health effects are most strongly felt in Environmental Justice (EJ) communities which are predominantly people of color.
- Climate change is a pediatric public health crisis
- Children in EJ Communities encounter greater health risks in the air they breathe, the lack of natural green spaces, and have worse health outcomes due to an increasingly hostile built environments
- Programs like the AAP Climate Advocate Program are effective programs that can assist individual clincians meet the call to action set out by the AAP on climate change "advocate for local, national, and international policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and for the country to employ adaptation strategies that improve preparedness for anticipated climate-associated effects.
- Our four case studies illustrate that individual climate advocates were effective through collaboration, working locally, and purposefully choosing to identify as climate advocates and child-advocates
All five authors are independent members of the American Academy of Pediatrics Climate Advocate Program, and Co-Chairs of their state's AAP Climate Change and Health Committees. Each is also a member of outside climate change and health advocacy groups. Dr Katie Durrwachter-Erno is part of Health Air and Water Colorado. Dr. Gredia Huerta-Montanez is part of Puerto Rico Chapter of Clinicians for Climate Action. Drs. Aaron Levy and Jennifer Lawson are part of Clean Air Carolinas. And Dr. Vi Nguyen and Vivian Nguyen are part of San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air.
Great appreciation is offered to Drs. Lori Byron and Aparna Bole from the American Academy of Pediatrics Council of Environmental Health. Further thanks the Executive Directors and leadership teams at AAP San Diego, North Carolina, Colorado, and Puerto Rico for their support. Additional thanks to Ashley Glover, Assistant Medical Librarian from the Southern California Permanente Medical Group for her expertise.
Durrwachter-Erno, Katie MD; Huerta-Montanez, Gredia MD; Nguyen, Vivian; Levy, Aaron A. DO; Lawson, Jennifer M. MD; and Nguyen, Vi T. MD
"Informing Policy on Built Environments to Safeguard Children in Environmental Justice Communities: Case Study of Five AAP Climate Advocates,"
Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk: Vol. 12:
1, Article 1.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/childrenatrisk/vol12/iss1/1