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Children's Health Protection

Increasing the Ability of Health Professionals to Identify, Prevent, and Reduce Environmental Health Threats to Children

EPA supports efforts to expand the integration of environmental health in to health care provider education and practice. The public looks more and more to their primary health care providers to provide environmental health information, including diagnosis, treatment, and counseling on prevention strategies. However, these providers are often not equipped with the specific knowledge needed to effectively assist their patients in addressing environmental health issues. Many federal agencies are engaged in developing partnerships with the health care community to integrate their agency's environmental health messages into educational and practice settings.

Promoting Pediatric Environmental Health among Pediatric Chief Residents

OCHP has expanded educational efforts with health professionals to identify, prevent, and reduce environmental health threats to children as directed by EPA's National Agenda. EPA supported the distribution of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Handbook of Pediatric Environmental Health to all pediatricians requesting this resource. The Handbook includes summaries of environmental health hazards to children and guidance to pediatricians for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of environmentally-related illnesses in children.

OCHP supports special education sessions of the American Academy of Pediatrics Exit Disclaimer (AAP) for Pediatric Chief Residents to heighten awareness of pediatric environmental health issues in residency training programs. Pediatric Chief Residents direct educational activities in their residency programs, such as Grand Rounds presentations and clinic conferences. More than 160 incoming Chief Pediatric Residents will have participated in these workshops by Summer 2003.

Protecting Children from Environmental Threats: Nursing Education

Following the lead of Florence Nightingale, nurses play an important role in modifying the environment to protect public health. As the largest group of health care providers (2.6 million in the United States), nurses can play an important role in protecting children from environmental health threats. With OCHP support, the American Nurses Foundation in collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Nursing developed a continuing education program for nurses in environmental health. Four Preconference Workshops were held prior to the 2001 annual meeting of the American College of Nurse Midwives, and the 2002 annual meetings of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses, the American Nurses Association, and the American Public Health Association. Three on-line and in-print continuing education modules related to children's environmental health focus on pediatric environmental health in the home and community, in the school setting, and in the health care setting.

OCHP assisted in the facilitation of workshops at meetings of nursing professionals representing the National Association of School Nurses and the Alaska Public Health Nurse Managers.

Supporting the Development of Pediatric Environmental Health Fellowships

The field of pediatric environmental health needs champions and experts to make sure that children are protected from environmental risks. OCHP supported the Ambulatory Pediatric Association's development of competencies for a new Pediatric Environmental Health Fellowship program.

Promoting the National Strategies for Health Care Providers: Pesticide Initiative

EPA and the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation Exit Disclaimer, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Labor, and health professionals nationwide, are supporting a national initiative to integrate health information related to pesticides into the education and practice of health care providers. OCHP is supporting this initiative because children may be exposed to pesticides where they live, learn and play. It is hoped that the pesticides initiative may be applied to other environmental health issues.

Supporting Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units

Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) Exit Disclaimer are a joint effort of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and USEPA. PEHSUs provide education and consultation services to health professionals, public health officials, and the public on children's environmental health issues. The Units are located in each of the 10 EPA/ATSDR Regions as well as one in Mexico and one in Canada. Each U.S.-based PEHSU has a toll-free number and a Web site dedicated to providing Region-specific information on children's environmental health issues of concern.

Doctors and nurses are not trained to recognize and understand how environment affects the health of children. Therefore, educating healthcare providers is essential to prevent, diagnose, manage and treat children with environmentally related illness. View a 2008 brochure explaining PEHSUs (PDF) (2 pp, 491K) or see the brochure in Spanish (PDF) (2 pp, 348K).

The PEHSU program is adoptable for locations around the world. Some countries have already established similar programs, such as the UPA in Argentina and the PEHSU in Spain.

In November 2005, OCHP developed fact sheets in English and Spanish about the North American network of PEHSUs. The fact sheets provide background on the critical role of the environment in child development, describe the function of PEHSUs, and provide useful Web site addresses. Download Children's Environmental Health and the North American Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PDF) (2 pp, 71K) or La Salud Ambiental De Los Niños Y Las Unidades Norteamericanas Especializadas De Salud Medioambiental Pediátrica (PDF) (2 pp, 88K).

Supporting the American Academy of Pediatrics Handbook on Pediatric Environmental Health, Second Edition

The American Academy of Pediatrics published the second edition of the Handbook of Pediatric Environmental Health, a comprehensive reference manual for pediatric clinicians to help identify, prevent and treat environmental health problems in children. EPA provided AAP $92,000 in grant dollars to support the printing and distribution of the handbook to pediatricians around the country, with support coming from many EPA offices, including: Office of Water, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, Office of Air and Radiation, and Office of Children's Health Protection.

Children may be at greater risk from harmful environmental pollutants, yet pediatricians are often not trained to recognize environmental hazards. Environmental health risks are among parents' top health concerns for their children, and with the advent of this second edition, pediatricians will be able to answer parent questions and address environmental health issues with the most up-to-date information. All original chapters, addressing issues such as carbon monoxide, indoor air pollutants, lead, mercury, drinking water and pesticides, have been updated. New chapters cover topics such as arsenic, irradiation and prenatal exposures. The book can be ordered from the AAP Customer Service Center at 866-843-2271.

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