In the modern day today, the relationship between environmental factors and childrens health issues, merits great concern. According to the world health organization, there is an annual death toll of over three million children who are under the age of five, as a result of environmental-related causes and conditions (WHO, 2002). For this reason, the environment is deemed as one of most critical influences on children's health. Nonetheless, identifying and prioritizing the specific environmental contaminants leading to the impairment of children's health is increasingly becoming a daunting task, especially in poverty stricken communities. Thus, this research paper seeks to discuss children's health issues with a primary focus on environmental factors and to a lesser extent, how poverty relates to this.
To begin with, there is a broad range of environmental conditions that have influences on the health and well-being of children. These conditions are such as toxins which are as a result of environmental pollution, infectious agents, social factors such as interactions with caregivers, and also social, economic resources in the family or the community. When compared to the adults, children are more vulnerable to environmental effects due to their physiology, behavior and the fact that their bodies are still growing and hence, they are at a greater risk if they are exposed to external contaminants. While new regulatory standards, alongside greater awareness of children's vulnerability to external environmental factors have been imposed, there is still a significant number of children, especially in less developed countries, who continue to be exposed to these toxic elements. This is exacerbated by the lack of proper resources, medical and public health interventions as well as the lack of defined protective policies in these poverty-stricken communities.
Various environmentally based infections such as Malaria, Asthma, Typhoid, Diarrhoea, and unintentional physical injuries continue to affect most children, precisely, the school-aged children. This is because, at this age, the children are exposed to harsh environmental hazards both at school and at home. Some of these hazards are such as contaminated drinking water, polluted air and contaminated foods and fruits. Scholars from diverse disciplines of Children's health, extensively seem to agree on the fact that air pollution is one of the most adverse environmental factors that lead to chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma on school-aged children. However, a 2002, study by the World Health Organization pointed out that the prevalence of Asthma and other respiratory related diseases among school-aged children in less developed countries is as a result of indoor air pollution. This included fumes from stoves as well as tobacco smoking in the environments in which these children are brought up in.
Children's health issues, which range from chronic illnesses to childhood deaths, which are from environmental causes such as poverty and malnutrition are associated with degraded urban and rural environments as well as unsustainable patterns of development. Schneider & Freeman (2009) contend that besides having poor health as compared to others, school-aged children from less developed environments or even low-income households are usually less prepared for learning. This lack of preparedness, can, in turn, have substantial effects on the children's cognitive, mental and psychosocial development in both their social and academic environment. Studies say that this is also bound to affect the future of the child since child development during their early years acts as a foundation for the child's later health and development.
In conclusion, given adverse impacts of environmental factors on children's health and well-being, most school-going children lose their lives as a result of adverse health epidemics from the environmentally related infections. Therefore, the health sector ought to continue articulating its implications for children's health, especially in less developed environments so as to improve and safeguard the future and productivity of these children.
Schneider, D., & Freeman, N. (2001). Children's Environmental Health Risks: A State-of-the-Art Conference. Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal, 56(2), 103-110. doi:10.1080/00039890109604060
WHO. (2002). WHO | The environment and health for children and their mothers. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/factsheets/fs284/en/
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