In a thoughtful Pediatrics Perspectives piece this month, Drs. Ragavan, Marcil, and Garg (10.1542/peds.2019-3169) present their rationale for including “climate change” as an additional social determinant of health (SDOH). As a pediatrician who has incorporated screening for and addressing SDOH into my office workflow, I can admit that adding climate change has not been on any of my screeners, and in reality, we don’t really need to screen for it, we just need to address it. While impoverished communities are most likely to feel the direct impact of climate change, all children and communities are going to be affected. As such, we need to begin to address the issue as pediatricians no matter where we practice or what communities we work with.
Fortunately, Ragavan et al offer some tangible suggestions on what we can do. Clearly, educating all pediatricians and trainees on the nuts and bolts of climate change and its impact on child health is a great place to start. But beyond education, helping pediatricians engage in the conversation with families in a non-political manner will be helpful to increase awareness amongst the larger population. Efforts similar to the Section on Pediatric Trainees gun violence prevention program “Protect Kids” could quickly increase awareness and action for a large number of pediatricians. Additionally, advocacy and partnership with already existing organizations that combat climate change will be important. Pediatricians have become important partners in many public health efforts over the years, and we need to be part of the conversation about climate change – highlighting the impact it will have on child health. And last, but not least, don’t forget to practice what you preach. We all need to be aware of our own impact on the climate and take steps to be better stewards for the only home we have – planet earth.