Climate change may reverse gains in child survival

2 min read

Children are especially vulnerable to the consequences of climate change—including reductions in the nutritional quality of staple crops, increases in asthma and heart disease due to air pollution, and the expanded geographical range of insects that carry disease. In fact, the risks may be severe enough to reverse gains made in childhood survival over the past century, according to an editorial by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A century ago, one in three children died before age five. Global investments in public health have cut that number by 90 percent.

In an editorial published in the Huffington Post on March 13, 2017, Dean Michelle Williams and Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Health Policy, write that universities have an obligation to understand and explain the impact of climate change on health and find ways to mitigate it. This includes producing unbiased, high-quality data to guide decision- and policy-making, and engaging more effectively with the public.

“We can no longer think of [climate change] as an issue of temperature changes or sea level rises alone. We must remember that we will feel the effects of climate change most acutely on our health,” they write. “We still have the time to mitigate these effects by focusing on reducing carbon pollution and slowing the warming of the planet. If we do, we will reap the benefits in terms of longer and healthier lives.  And our children will be the biggest beneficiaries.”