Progress in Children’s Environmental Health

October 6, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An editorial in this month’s EHP describes progress in children’s environmental health issues, charting changes in perception and challenges faced in reintroducing concepts which used to be central to medicine and health.

One particularly interesting point is the observation that health professionals have become isolated from the professionals who implement their recommendations: buildings go up, towns are planned, waste management schemes are introduced, but all too often health is left out of the picture.

Why has it been so difficult to move from knowing to doing? First, many of the decisions affecting children are made not by those in the health sector, but by our professional colleagues in the agriculture, education, energy, housing, mining, and transportation sectors.

Just as “men are from Mars and women are from Venus,” it seems as if professionals in each of these sectors are from different planets. Although we may speak the same language, we rarely have more than a cursory understanding of the forces that shape one another’s decisions and other considerations.

Because the CEH movement has focused on educating the health community, few efforts have been made to establish relationships with other economic sectors. To use a developmental analogy, we are still involved primarily in “parallel play” rather than team sports. Professionals in the health sciences may work alongside professionals in other sectors, but we are absorbed in our own activities and usually have little interaction outside them.

Instead of sitting at the table with urban planners, housing specialists, and energy experts when health professionals are planning an approach to a child health problem such as asthma, we usually move forward to design a study, implement it, analyze the results, and then present it as a fait accompli to our colleagues in other economic sectors, and hope that they will find it useful.

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