U.S. childhood obesity and climate change: Moving toward shared environmental health solutions

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This article focuses on the epidemic of childhood obesity, a significant cause of pediatric morbidity in the United States. It begins with a review of the evidence regarding environmental influences on obesity. Then it draws from that evidence to cite examples of climate change prevention and preparedness efforts that could also benefit the obesity problem. Climate change is a global environmental issue predicted to negatively impact children's health. In the United States, many regions are expected to experience worse air quality, increased vector-borne disease, and changes in food availability. Children's size, developmental stage, and long life expectancy make them unique when considering health effects from the environment. Furthermore, in the latter part of this century, the children of today will become seniors, a group also vulnerable to predicted health impacts from climate change. These vulnerabilities will contribute to existing health disparities that are due, in part, to unequal risk factors in communities of color and low income. Improved air quality, healthier diets, and increased physical activity are all potential results of climate change interventions. Unintended potential negative consequences are also discussed and careful pre-intervention assessment is emphasized. Interdisciplinary collaborations for research and solutions are needed for large scale environmental issues such as climate change and their impact on multi-factorial health problems including childhood obesity. Carefully selected climate change-related efforts can simultaneously address current children's health problems, future population health concerns, and ultimately result in more equitable health for all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2009


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