Climate change includes both global warming driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.
In the article Global Climate Change and Children’s Health it states that according to the World Health Organization “greater than 88% of existing disease attributable to climate change occurs in children younger than 5 years” (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011, p.2). Some of the health consequences which affect Children’s Health are increased heat stress, mental health consequences, decreased air quality, respiratory health issues, and appearance of new diseases. This article separates the health consequences into three separate categories: Primary Effects, Secondary Effects, and Tertiary Effects. Primary Effects are said to be the easiest to detect and include things such as “severe storms, wildfires and floods, which result in loss or separation from caregivers, exposure to infectious diseases, and mental health consequences” (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011, p.2). The Secondary Effects refer to climate change which affects our ecosystem and results in increased pollen counts and wildfire smoke. The increase in pollen counts and wildfire smoke results in health consequences such as respiratory disease and asthma, which is exacerbated in children. In addition to the previously mentioned health consequences damaging our ecosystem has also resulted in poor agricultural conditions, which in turn is going to affect nutritive food available, and cost of food. The poor agricultural conditions greatly affect regions where child malnourishment is already prevalent, making matters worse. Secondary Effects also refers to the identification of new diseases such as meningoencephalitis and the increase of diseases such as Lyme Disease, which are health consequences on the rise in children (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011, p.3). Tertiary Effects refers to the health consequences which effect children’s biological and cognitive development. Children’s biological and cognitive development are consequences related to shortage of food and water, and increased violence, which is greatest in lower economic communities (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011, p.3).
Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies
Many of the strategies listed in this article are aimed at decreasing the severity of health consequences by decreasing the carbon pollution, which is related to greenhouse gas emissions. One way to decrease the carbon pollution is to first decrease the amount of energy used, which can be done by increasing the use of solar and wind panels for energy. In addition to using solar panels carbon pollution can also be reduced by decreasing waste. Meanwhile strategies have been put in place for climate associated health consequences, because as the article states they are inevitable (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011, p.3). Some of the policies which have been implemented vary, ranging from hospital and health system preparedness, surveillance and education of climate-associated infectious disease, to the development of climate-resistant crops (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011, p.3).
Since nurses and health care providers play an important role in patient care it is important to advocate for policies and change to protect children from health consequences. Before a nurse can advocate for a patient one must first be knowledgeable in the role climate changes play on health. One way to promote knowledge would be to implement educational opportunities to teach nurses the different effects the environment has on a child’s health. The article also mentions many ways in which health care professionals can make an impact in reducing carbon pollution by discussing climate change with families so that they can make choices to not only decrease carbon pollution but enhance health (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011, p.4). The Public Health Response article suggests that nurses can encourage families to walk, ride bikes, or use public transportation, all of which “not only lowers motor vehicle contributions to climate change, it also promotes physical activity” (Frumkin, Hess, Luber, Malilay, & McGeehin, 2008, p.3). In addition to educating families on promoting health it is also important for nurses to educate families so that they are prepared for emergencies or disasters and are aware of the health consequences because of climate change. Advocating for patients is important as is collaborating with health departments and research facilities. By collaborating with other health care professionals and research facilities this increases the likelihood to address these issues at not only a local level, but also national. Bringing the matter of climate change and health consequences for children to a national level prompts change in things such as: accessibility of public transportation and availability of plant-based food, both of which promote positive health outcomes (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011, p.4).
Integration into Personal Practice
Integration into personal practice may not be easy for everyone but is indeed necessary. According to the Climate Change: The Public Health Response article, “Public understanding of climate change is incomplete, and a majority lacks confidence in information presented in the media” (Frumkin et al., 2008, p.5). I feel the lack of education and knowledge plays a large part in people’s behaviors and choices, therefore the most important part of integrating change into practice is to educate the population. Education can be taught by encouraging children and families to reach small milestones, which reduce waste and promote health. By educating children and their families that walking to school or riding their bikes as a family rather than taking a vehicle is one step they can take in making a difference in not only their health but the health of our world. Some other ways I would integrate change into my personal practice would be to teach from a young age the importance of reducing waste. I feel that by teaching children to recycle and the principle behind it, rather than just telling them to recycle would make them more apt to participate and have a sense of pride, as they are making a difference. There are many factors which contribute to climate change and many ways to make a difference, but the most critical is to educate which is why that would be the focus if I were to integrate change into my personal practices.
- Frumkin, H., Hess, J., Luber, G., Malilay, J., & McGeehin, M. (2008). Climate Change: The Public Health Response. American Journal of Public Health, 98(3), 435–445.http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2007.119362
- Sheffield, P.E., Landrigan, P.J. (2011). Global climate change and children's health. Environmental Health Perspectives, 199(3), 291- 298. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002233