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Thursday, October 8, 2020 is Children’s Environmental Health Day (CEH Day). The environment is an important but often overlooked factor that influences health and developmental outcomes, especially for children, who are particularly vulnerable to these hazards. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 34% of all children’s health issues are the result of modifiable environmental factors. We must consider environmental factors, such as air and water pollution, or toxic chemicals in consumer products because these can be modified and improved through policy measures, individual habits, community efforts, and business practices.

As with the coronavirus and so many current health crises, environmental factors are not equally distributed across race and income. Children and pregnant women from low-income communities, tribal communities, and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these harmful toxicants, placing them at higher risk for illness and disability.

While there is an urgent need to put children and families back into the forefront of our nation’s actions regarding health and environment, we also have many children’s environmental health wins to celebrate this year. For instance, in April 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave $697,000 in grants to assist Tennessee in identifying sources of lead in school and child care facility water. Then in July, Tennessee unanimously passed HB 2017, creating stronger rules for Lead-Free Schools. This year New Jersey applied new clean water protections to 600 miles of waterways, protecting kid’s physical, mental, and emotional health. New Jersey also became the first state to include climate change curriculum in schools.

We’re excited to celebrate these and other wins, but also to commemorate the large amount of work that is still required to protect children from environmental hazards. CEH Day is a platform for ALL of us advocating for clean air and water, safer food and products, and healthier places for children to live, learn, and play. It is a way to increase visibility, make some noise, educate decision-makers, and create some real change for children's health. There are lots of ways to get involved, no matter who you are. You can request proclamations from your mayor/governor declaring CEH a priority for your community. You can join the annual #CEHchat on Twitter (this year focuses on children’s health and climate change). Or you could attend or host an event like a stream cleanup, educational panel, letter-writing campaign, or virtual watch party.

Because of COVID-19, many of this year’s CEH Day activities are going virtual. The Children’s Environmental Health Network is working with advocates, scientists, grassroots organizers, and entertainers to put on a CEH Day Livestream. Tune in 8:30 am to 7:30 pm ET for educational panels, inspiring leaders,CEH Community produced segments focusing on pertinent public health issues, fun children's read- and sing-alongs, a sustainable children's' fashion show, and the 15th Annual Child Health Advocate Awards.

We must respect the interconnectedness of environmental and human health and prioritize the health of our planet so that our children and future generations have the healthiest possible start to life

I invite you to join me and help create a better, healthier future for our children on October 8th.

COVID-19 has completely reshaped daily life. While it may be tempting to begin resuming normal life as the summer months approach, it is necessary to take proper precautions and maintain safe social distancing even as parts of the country begin to reopen. There is still a lot of uncertainty at this time, so it is always better to stay on the safe side and err on the side of caution.

This doesn't, however, mean you can't enjoy outdoor summer activities. As of now, the CDC, recommends staying physically active. It's one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy. In many areas, people can visit parks, hike trails, or be in open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air and vitamin D, stay active and safely connect with others.

It is important to follow the steps below to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

DO Visit parks that are close to your home Prepare before you visit (this includes bringing facemasks, sanitizer, and any essentials you might need in the event of coming across other people) Stay at least 6 feet away from others (“social distancing”) and take other steps to prevent COVID-19 Play it safe around and in swimming pools. Keep space between yourself and others

DON’T Visit parks if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19 Visit crowded parks Use playgrounds Participate in organized activities or sports

It is important to keep in mind that parks will only be open at the discretion of state and local authorities, so be sure to research if the park you're planning to visit will be open ahead of time.

National parks will be open on a park-by-park basis as well, so be sure to check the National Park Service website to determine whether the park you're planning to visit will be open.

Beaches and swimming areas will be open at the discretion of state and local authorities as well. You should also check ahead of time to see if visitor centers and bathroom facilities at these places will be available, so you can determine what you need to bring with you.

Swimming does carry some health risks. Visit CDC’s Healthy Swimming website for information to help you prevent illness and drowning, while having fun and enjoying the health benefits of swimming.

As we all are surely aware by now, be sure to STAY 6 FEET AWAY from others and to WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN for 20 seconds with soap and water, and to cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze.

Also remember....

Avoid gathering with others outside of your household

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the everyday structure of life nationwide and around the world. Schools and jobs have gone completely remote, the nationwide unemployment levels are at an all-time high, friends and loved ones have been personally affected by the virus, and there are so many uncertainties and stress as a result.

Many of us have not seen anything like this pandemic in our lifetime. While dealing with the stressors, anxieties, and effects of the pandemic is a struggle for adults, the mental health and wellness of children is just as important to consider during these times.

Talking with your children about a global pandemic is surely not something most parents have been prepared for, but it is important to have conversations with your children to ease their anxieties.

Children may worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting ill with COVID-19. Parents, family members, school staff, and other trusted adults can play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety or fear.

The CDC recommends the tips below for talking with your children about COVID-19:

  • Remain calm. Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.

  • Reassure children that they are safe. Let them know it is okay if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.

  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk. Let children know they can come to you when they have questions.

  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.

  • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.

  • Provide information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the Internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.

  • Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs. Remind children to wash their hands frequently and stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick. Also, remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.

  • If school is open, discuss any new actions that may be taken at school to help protect children and school staff.

Facts about COVID-19 to discuss with children Try to keep information simple and remind them that health are working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy.

What is COVID-19?

  • COVID-19 is the short name for “coronavirus disease 2019.” It is a new virus. Scientists and doctors are still learning about it.

  • Recently, this virus has made a lot of people sick. Scientists and doctors are trying to learn more so they can help people who get sick.

  • Doctors and health experts are working hard to help people stay healthy.

What can I do so that I don’t get COVID-19? You can practice healthy habits at home, school, and play to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. What happens if you get sick with COVID-19?

  • COVID-19 can look different in different people. For many people, being sick with COVID-19 would be a little bit like having the flu. People can get a fever, cough, or have a hard time taking deep breaths. Most people who have gotten COVID-19 have not gotten very sick. Only a small group of people who get it have had more serious problems.

  • If you do get sick, it doesn’t mean you have COVID-19. People can get sick from all kinds of germs. What’s important to remember is that if you do get sick, the adults at home will help get you any help that you need.