Developing and implementing core competencies in children’s environmental health for students, trainees and healthcare providers: a narrative review

Rose Hannah Goldman, Lauren Zajac, Robert J. Geller, Mark D. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Knowledge of the health impacts of environmental exposures (such as pollution disasters, poor air quality, water contamination, climate change) on children’s health has dramatically increased in the past 40 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 23% of all deaths worldwide were attributable to the environment, and 26% of deaths in children less than 5 years old could be prevented with removal of environmental risks factors. Yet, little has permeated medical education, leaving pediatric providers ill equipped to address these issues. To address this gap, members from the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units, a United States nationwide network of academically affiliated experts who have created numerous environmental health educational materials and programs, have identified fifteen core environmental health (EH) competencies needed by health care providers to enable them to effectively address environmental health concerns. These competencies can serve as the foundation for the development and implementation of relevant educational programs. The core EH competencies are based upon these foundational elements: 1) Definition of “children’s environmental health” that describes how environmental exposures (positive and negative) in early life influence the health and development in childhood and across the entire human life span 2) Children are not “little adults” and so have unique vulnerabilities to environmental hazards; 3) Environmental health inequities exist, causing some children to have a disproportionate amount of unhealthy exposures and consequently a greater risk of adverse effects; 4) Climate change will translate to numerous adverse health effects that will particularly affect children worldwide. In this article, the authors describe the core environmental health competencies and provide resources, online tools, strategies, and examples targeted to all levels of training and practice to better enable leaders and educators to bring this important content to the forefront.

Original languageEnglish
Article number503
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Climate change
  • Competencies
  • Environmental health
  • Environmental justice
  • Environmental social determinates of health
  • Health disparities
  • Medical education
  • Pediatric environmental health


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