Children are uniquely susceptible to the health effects of environmental hazards. Their rapid development, proximity to the ground, and the fact that they eat, drink, and breathe more per pound of body weight make children particularly vulnerable to environmental exposures. Children who live in low-income communities or belong to racial or ethnic minority groups are even more likely to suffer the effects of environmental hazards and disasters. Effectively addressing these complex, multifaceted challenges facing children and families requires a national primary care health system that is knowledgeable and capable in clinical environmental medicine and can address prevention, risk reduction, and early exposure detection. Collaboration among obstetric and pediatric health care professionals who are routinely viewed as trusted sources of health information by families and communities is critical to increasing the capacity of health care systems to ensure optimal outcomes for children and families.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a nonprofit, professional membership association representing more than 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists. The AAP has a longstanding history of addressing children’s environmental health dating back to 1954. Since then, the AAP has developed more than 60 environmental health policy statements with recommendations for various stakeholders, in addition to an AAP manual, Pediatric Environmental Health, 4th Edition that serves as a comprehensive guide to help identify, prevent, and treat pediatric environmental health conditions. For the past 5 years, the AAP has served as the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) National Program Office (NPO) East. In this role, the AAP has collaborated closely with its partners at the American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT) to lead, manage, and support the PEHSU network. Through this work, the NPO has established strong working relationships with each of the regions and has also led efforts to develop educational resources and expand the reach of the PEHSU program to additional health care professionals, communities, and families providing them with high quality environmental health information.
The AAP proposes to continue and expand its role as the PEHSU NPO in the next project cycle and will apply nearly 90 years of experience as the nation's leading pediatric organization, more than 50 years addressing environmental health, and 5 years' experience serving as the NPO East. To accomplish these goals, the AAP will leverage existing infrastructure, capacity, and experience to increase environmental health awareness, resources, and consultation to health care professionals, community organizations, government officials, federal staff, child care providers, parents, and other stakeholders. Additional emphasis will be placed on engaging with and addressing the needs of families and health care professionals in high-risk, underserved areas. As new, emerging environmental threats to pregnant women, infants, and children arise, the AAP will integrate its disaster preparedness and recovery efforts into PEHSU program activities.
With decades of experience and expertise, the AAP continues to serve as an authority in children’s environmental health and related topics and works to ensure that conditions in which, or near where children live, learn, and play are free from environmental hazards. As the PEHSU NPO, the AAP will apply servant leadership to support the 10 regions in achieving the short-term and intermediate outcomes, bolster the PEHSU program’s position as the leading national source of medical information and consultative advice on environmental conditions and disasters affecting reproductive and children’s health, ultimately improving health outcomes for children and families.