Paediatric environmental health centres
Expertise, information and training on the diagnosis, prevention and management of paediatric diseases linked to the environment
Parents and communities are more and more concerned about diseases and developmental problems suffered by their children that may be linked to environmental factors. Health care providers may be unable to respond to the specific questions posed as they have poor information and knowledge on environmental matters. Decision–makers are often uncertain about measure they should be taking.
Are learning disabilities linked to a pollutant? Why is the incidence of asthma increasing? May early puberty be due to hormonally-active contaminants? Is cancer linked to the environment? These and many other paediatric issues, questions and fears require experts and professionals, available in a specialized unit or centre, readily accessible to all sectors in society.
These centres, able to recognize, assess and manage environmentally-related diseases in children and provide education and training, exist in the USA and Canada (Paediatric Environmental Health Speciality Units – PEHSU), Mexico and Spain. New initiatives are being launched in Argentina and Uruguay.
What is a children's environmental health (CEH) unit or centre?
A structure with clearly defined clinical, research, advisory and educational roles, located in a health facility, specialized in dealing with environmentally-related paediatric issues. These units may provide advise, information and care, do research, train professionals, educate the public and inform decision-makers. Their staff, trained on environmental matters, may include paediatricians, toxicologists, family doctors, obstetricians, public health experts, occupational doctors, nurses and educators. Supported by a multidisciplinary team: social workers, environmental officers, engineers, and advisors from relevant areas.
Potential roles of the CEH unit or centre
WHO is preparing guidance materials – pioneered by PAHO - on how to set up and run such centres, potential goals and objectives, advantages of networking, and the benefits these units may provide to society and the children.