The World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with international experts, recently released an updated WHO Training Package on children’s environmental health for health care providers who work with children and adolescents. This set of training materials aims to help clinical health professionals identify, evaluate, and manage diseases linked to or triggered by environmental factors.
“WHO has been working with experts from all over the world and its Network of WHO Collaborating Centres in Children’s Environmental Health to create and update practical evidence-based training materials for doctors and nurses to better protect children from environmental risk factors. The training is useful for every health professional, everywhere,” said Marie-Noel Bruné Drisse, WHO lead for children’s environmental health.
WHO has created a set of instructions and evaluation materials, as well as a supplemental package on reproductive health and the environment, all of which can be tailored to the needs of the user. Several objectives of the training are to increase the knowledge base about environmental factors and children’s health; improve the quality of diagnosis and management of health and developmental effects that are linked to environmental factors; build capacity for risk communication for a variety of audiences; and promote research on children's health.
The package consists of a collection of modules with peer-reviewed and internationally harmonized materials that enable health care workers to learn valuable new skills, understand the latest children’s health research findings, and become trainers of their peers and colleagues.
The introductory modules cover the unique vulnerability of children to the environmental threats they face. Modules on exposures – including sanitation and hygiene, e-waste, mercury, chemicals, secondhand tobacco smoke, ambient air, and climate change – all aim to increase understanding of the multiple sources, routes, and mechanisms of exposure that particularly affect children. Modules focused on health impacts explore the effects of specific chemical, biological, and physical, and hazards, ranging from pesticides to mold to noise pollution that are present in places where children live, learn, and play.
The creation and update of the materials was supported by numerous participants in the Network of WHO Collaborating Centres in Children’s Environmental Health, which is hosted by NIEHS. The network, which aims to build evidence and capacity in children’s environmental health, conducts collaborative research, raises awareness of existing and emerging issues through education and outreach, and develops interventions to reduce childhood environmental exposures.
“Today, more than ever, we are aware of the effects the environment can have on our health and particularly those of children. We are also aware of the solutions. On May 26, 2020, more than 350 organizations representing more than 40 million health professionals wrote a letter to G-20 leaders calling for a healthy and green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, highlighting the tolls that air pollution and climate change are having on our children’s health,” said Bruné Drisse. “This call is a reminder that it is essential to build the capacity of all health professionals to recognize, diagnose, address, and prevent environmentally-related health conditions in children. And these materials are an important tool in building that capacity.”