RECOMMENDATIONS AND CALL TO ACTION
- There is an urgent need to transform society’s understanding of children’s environmental health and put children and families at the forefront of society’s conscience and thinking.
- Science showing irreversible and severe harm calls for urgent action now.
- We now know that children suffer more harm at nearly every level of exposure to pollution and toxics than do adults and that early life exposures are risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, and neurological and reproductive health disorders.
- Mobilizing society requires significant and long term organizing.
- Scientific knowledge has not been translated in a way that is understood and accessible to the general public.
- Families face multiple challenges yet public resources are scarce and policy attention is limited.
- There is no single collective message and not enough messengers to move the needle on children’s environmental health and make transformative change.
- Develop a detailed, comprehensive communication strategy with compelling messages and stories that communicate the key environmental health issues facing children.
- Identify and deliver effective and compelling messages for key audiences and influencers, including success stories from different perspectives.
- Identify and secure key messengers – including youth and children – for effective deployment of these messages.
- Identify (if necessary develop) a set of indicators that can help to assess, measure, and depict healthy environments for children. Use these indicators to measure progress, educate the public, and hold society accountable.
- Use social media and other innovative communication tools to reach, engage, educate and empower the general public especially youth and children.
- Launch a movement and capture the public’s attention through a national event such as a million children march.
- Create a cohesive and forceful network of support, including a coalition of traditional and non-traditional supporters.
- Knowledge is critical for transformative change in children’s environmental health.
- Clear and accessible information about children’s environmental health, including advancements in science, is imperative to educate and equip lay audiences, decision makers, and others with the information they need to act.
- It is important to harness existing information, identify gaps in information, and strengthen the understanding of the relationship between children, their environment, and their experiences, including psychosocial stress.
- Credible and accessible information about children’s environmental health is not collected in one place that is easily accessed by the public.
- Research on children’s environmental health – including pediatric research and prevention – is often underfunded or is in some cases not funded at all. Applied research that would help to develop effective public policy often falls outside of existing funding programs.
- Create a reliable, credible hub of information on children’s environmental health that is accessible and includes both original scientific research and research findings translated for lay audiences (to include the “meaning” and “weight” of the science).
- Develop a research agenda that builds on past and existing research efforts and that addresses important knowledge gaps.
- Craft ways to overcome funding obstacles, particularly within philanthropy and the federal government, for research in the area of pediatrics and prevention.
- Develop mass-media materials to inform a comprehensive communication strategy about children’s health and development to help educate society broadly about the underpinnings of children’s environmental health.
- Create information about children’s environmental health to engage parents, families, and members of the public –g., the top 10 actions for protecting children from environmental hazards; stories about children’s environmental health in everyday life; recognition for champions of children’s environmental health.
- Disseminate information about children’s environmental health through existing networks such as schools and child care, and through non-traditional partnerships (i.e., businesses), and community groups.
- Create curricula for elementary and high schools on children’s environmental health issues.
- There is a critical need for the use of safer chemicals and manufacturing of safer products.
- There are a growing number of businesses which are working towards safer chemical production, sales, and uses, but these businesses are still the minority.
- There is a need for more life cycle assessment (cradle to grave) of products and their potential environmental impacts and harm to children’s health.
- Business and industry can be allies (along with government) in the work to protect children’s health and can be encouraged to use safer chemicals and develop safer products.
- Consumers are increasingly aware of the impacts of chemicals in products (i.e. BPA).
- There are tremendous opportunities to create greater awareness of and to encourage the purchase of child safe products.
- Current manufacturing and production processes do not support the use of safer chemicals and safer products.
- There is not enough market demand for safer products, as many products are either not available or not affordable to many people throughout the U.S.
- There is little awareness or recognition of labels for existing safer products.
- Federal and state regulations and incentives are not adequate for promoting green chemistry and safer chemical production and use.
- Many businesses and trade associations deploy substantial resources to challenge protective policy efforts and undermine credible science.
- Encourage the production and purchasing of safer products – by creating a market demand:
- Harness the consumer power of youth –g., through a social media/marketing strategy.
- Facilitate development of a children’s environmental health certification for products that children use.
- Engage the business community as part of the solution to protect children’s environmental health.
- Work with businesses in the development of criteria and guidelines for safer products.
- Work within the business sector to advance children’s environmental health and foster business champions.
- Develop a business led media campaign.
- Encourage and support aligned community-based entrepreneurship and business development.
- Provide a sound assessment of the economic case (e.g., the business case or return on investment) at the societal level that prevention from early exposures is beneficial to society, and an investment in national security and a vibrant workforce.
Recommendation 4: Build the political will in our institutions of government for child centered policies
- The political will for protection of children’s environmental health has waned over the years – children’s environmental health is not a high priority among many -- as a matter of policy or for political decision makers.
- Transformative change in children’s environmental health will only occur with political will and support.
- Changing political will to embrace a societal issue – such as children’s environmental health – requires a ground swell of activity and support, as well as elevation of the value of children’s environmental health among decision makers.
- Develop a way – either through a new or existing organization – to recognize elected leaders who are champions of children’s environmental health and to educate the public on their representatives’ actions on children’s environmental health issues.
- Develop briefs on key children’s environmental health issues for elected officials.
- Draft and promote a strong and innovative policy platform for children’s environmental health, including a “Promise to Our Children” – a set of 10 principles for policy actions at all levels of government.
- Write and advocate for a Children’s Bill of Rights – potentially drawing upon the United Nations Convention on children’s rights (United Nations, 1989).
- Promote children’s health in all policies.
- An established, connected, vibrant, and multi-sector children’s environmental health community is vital to strengthening and aligning efforts, creating a collective voice, and catalyzing action.
- The children’s environmental health community must work closely with the public health community.
- The children’s environmental health community can benefit by working closely with those who work outside the health sector but have a profound influence on children’s health and safety.
- A vibrant community must have youth and family representation at its center.
- The children’s environmental health community must work closely with housing, school, and child care communities especially to benefit from lessons learned and existing science on indoor air exposures and protections.
- Harnessing the multitude of groups, organizations, stakeholders, and sectors involved in children’s environmental health is a significant endeavor that involves considerable resources and time.
- There is no single leader or convening body for children’s environmental health.
- Given the diversity and number of organizations, agencies, and individuals involved, it will be challenging to develop a collective and universal message that all can embrace.
- Develop a systems map to better identify and understand key stakeholders and to define the community.
- Galvanize students in academic institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other universities serving Latino and Native American students.
- Train family doctors, OB GYNs, pediatricians, nurses, and other relevant health care professionals about the range of children’s environmental health issues (from toxic exposures to childhood obesity to impacts of climate change to the positive impacts of livable communities).
- Connect with the environmental justice movement and ensure that marginalized communities and populations and those facing health disparities have a voice and are part of the community.
- Identify, connect with, and integrate into strong, existing, and relevant infrastructures and initiatives that benefit children’s environmental health. This includes housing, schools, and child care networks, livable communities and active transportation, the sports community, redevelopment and housing authorities, arts and youth parks, the majors youth commission, sustainable businesses, and many more.
- Acknowledge and work with existing children’s advocacy groups – including public health and environmental health – and ensure children’s environmental health is part of their agenda.
- Use a children’s bill of rights and top 10 list of principles embodied in policy to create a policy platform to rally around.