By Aparna Bole, MD, FAAP & Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP, HealthyChildren.org
Every day, pediatricians see how climate change affects children’s physical and mental health. When pediatricians talk with parents about what’s good for their kids, part of our job is connecting the dots between climate change and their child’s health.
Connecting the dots
For example, pediatricians often talk with parents about how a healthy diet and exercise help children grow into healthy adults. When we talk about nutrition, we can discuss eating less-processed foods—and considering more plant-based diets, which are good for the planet and healthy for kids. When we talk about ways families can get kids to exercise and play outdoors, we also discuss air quality. We talk with parents about what to do on days when the air quality is poor so their kids can avoid asthma attacks and how to cope with higher pollen counts if their kids have seasonal allergies. And when kids experience stressful or traumatic climate-related events, such as hurricanes and wildfires, we talk about ways to cope with anxiety and take care of their emotional health in addition to their physical health.
Pediatricians and parents share the same goal—to protect children’s health today, and to ensure that kids can grow into healthy, thriving adulthood. That’s why pediatricians care about connecting the dots between climate change and children’s health, and advocate for climate solutions.