Special Issue "Impact of Climate Change on Child Health"


A special issue of Children (ISSN 2227-9067).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2014)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Helen Leonard
Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA 6872, Australia
Website: http://www.childhealthresearch.org.au/our-people/staff-student-index/l/helen-leonard.aspx
E-Mail: hleonard@ichr.uwa.edu.au
Phone: +61 8 9489 7790
Fax: +31 30 253 7417
Interests: rare diseases; epidemiology of intellectual disability; autism; Down syndrome; Rett syndrome; preterm birth; climate change; cohort studies; international registers

Guest Editor
Dr. Emma Glasson
Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, P.O. Box 855, West Perth, Western Australia, 6872, Australia
E-Mail: emmag@ichr.uwa.edu.au
Phone: +61 8 9489 7777
Interests: the epidemiology of developmental disorders; specifically including autism spectrum disorder; intellectual disability and Down syndrome; and the intergenerational patterns of health and illness

Guest Editor
Dr. Alison Anderson
Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, P.O. Box 855, West Perth, Western Australia, 6872, Australia
E-Mail: alisona@ichr.uwa.edu.au
Phone: +61 9489 7781
Interests: developmental origins of health and disease; health impacts of in utero exposure to environmental contaminants; bioinformatics approaches to investigating complex toxicity modes of action and health impacts of climate change

Guest Editor
Prof. Robyn Lucas
Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, P.O. Box 855, West Perth, Western Australia, 6872, Australia, and National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, 0200, Australia
E-Mail: robyn.lucas@anu.edu.au
Phone: +61 2 61253448
Interests: environmental effects on immune function; epidemiology; developmental origins of health and disease; autoimmune diseases; climate change; ultraviolet radiation; vitamin D

Guest Editor
Dr. Brad Farrant
Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, P.O. Box 855, West Perth, Western Australia, 6872, Australia
E-Mail: bfarrant@ichr.uwa.edu.au
Phone: + 61 8 9489 7711
Interests: early childhood development; effects of broader ecological factors like climate change; biodiversity loss and population growth on children's development now and in the future

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Recent research suggests that climate change is a major threat to the health and wellbeing of children worldwide, now and in the future. Overwhelmingly, the health burden caused by climate change will be borne by children, who may have less capacity to adapt or to avoid these new challenges to health. Current national and international emission reduction commitments are inadequate. Even if they are honoured, the global temperature rise by the end of this century is predicted to be double the internationally agreed ‘safe’ target of 2 degrees Celsius. We must better understand the full range of the increased risks to the health and wellbeing of children in order to prepare for, or alter, the expected impact.

Climate change will have wide-ranging effects on the environment and our interaction with it. There may be some benefits to health, for example very cold climates becoming warmer. But the breadth and magnitude of adverse effects are expected to result in a net negative impact on health and well-being for individuals and populations. Increased weather-related disasters, extreme climatic conditions and sea-level rise are likely to cause large-scale population migration and changes in disease patterns. Children will be at particular increased risk for multiple health outcomes including mental health disorders, malnutrition, and infectious and allergic diseases. Developing countries in tropical areas are likely to suffer most due to poverty, lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation, inadequate health care systems and high density populations. Reducing CO2 emissions has become a major global objective, but many additional challenges remain including the development of better outcome measures to assess child health impacts.

This special issue in Children will act as a forum to expand our understanding of the specific mechanisms that lead to increased health and disability risk for children, how risk might be better estimated and measured across time and geography, and how cost-effective strategies might be applied at local levels to enhance adaptation, or to mitigate effects of, region-specific impacts.

We look forward to receiving your contributions!

Prof. Helen Leonard
Dr Emma Glasson
Dr Alison Anderson
Prof. Robyn Lucas
Dr. Brad Farrant
Guest Editors


Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Children is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. For the first couple of issues the Article Processing Charge (APC) will be waived for well-prepared manuscripts. English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.


  • climate change
  • global warming
  • child health and wellbeing
  • climate sensitive disease
  • asthma
  • allergies
  • communicable disease
  • psychological distress
  • heat waves
  • floods
  • storms
  • fires
  • droughts
  • post traumatic stress
  • forced migration
  • food security
  • malnutrition

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Displaying article 1-4
p. 461-473
by  and
Children 2014, 1(3), 461-473; doi:10.3390/children1030461
Received: 30 June 2014; in revised form: 20 October 2014 / Accepted: 7 November 2014 / Published: 3 December 2014
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Climate Change on Child Health)
p. 457-460
by ,  and
Children 2014, 1(3), 457-460; doi:10.3390/children1030457
Received: 8 November 2014; Accepted: 11 November 2014 / Published: 26 November 2014
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Climate Change on Child Health)
p. 403-423
by , ,  and
Children 2014, 1(3), 403-423; doi:10.3390/children1030403
Received: 10 August 2014; in revised form: 7 October 2014 / Accepted: 12 October 2014 / Published: 11 November 2014
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Climate Change on Child Health)
abstract graphic
p. 99-106
Children 2014, 1(2), 99-106; doi:10.3390/children1020099
Received: 25 June 2014; Accepted: 28 July 2014 / Published: 14 August 2014
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Climate Change on Child Health)
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Children and Climate Change: Lost in Policy?
Elizabeth G  Hanna and Lyndall Strazdins
National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health, Australian National University, Australia
Children are major stakeholders in climate change policy, yet their stake and interests are rarely foregrounded.  Also invisible in health policy is climate change, as mass health impacts are only beginning to emerge, primarily from exposures to extremes of heat, fires, drought and violent weather systems.  Continued warming embedded in the system means exacerbation of these trends is inevitable, which jeopardizes children’s future health and happiness. Children and young adults currently face a social order where they are increasingly “locked out” of financial security, home ownership and job security as globalisation places downward pressures on the conditions and benefits that their parents and grandparents enjoyed. In this paper we argue this ‘double invisibility’ from the policy agenda generates a systematic exclusion of intergenerational health needs in policy formulations, which is further eroding the intergenerational contract.  Continuation of this myopia risks the development of a ‘perfect storm’ via fracturing the intergenerational pact. Through the lens of double invisibility, this paper discusses the difficulty policy makers and children’s champions have in articulating and responding to children’s stake in climate change mitigation and adaption policies. We present the case that rather than being disenfranchised, children’s interests should be central to the design and evaluation of climate change policies.
Keywords: climate change; health impacts; weather extremes; children; intergeneration

Author: Anthony J McMichael
Affiliation: Emeritus Professor (Population Health), The Australian National University, Australia
Abstract: As human-driven climate change encroaches, adults fret about likely losses of livelihoods, houses and farms due to human-driven climate change. Children fret about their parents’ worries, about information they hear but don’t really understand about the world’s climate, and perhaps about their own futures. In chronic worriers blood cortisol levels rise and adverse change accrues in various organ systems, prefiguring adult-life diseases. And for many millions of children in poor countries who hear little news and live with day-to-day fatalism, climate change threatens the fundamentals of existence – food sufficiency, safe drinking water and physical security – and heightens risks of diarrhoeal disease, malaria and other climate-sensitive infections.
Poor populations, and especially their children, will bear the brunt of climate-related trauma, disease and premature death over the next few decades, and – less directly – from social disruption, impoverishment and displacement. The recent droughts in Somalia as the Indian Ocean warmed and monsoonal rains failed, on top of chronic civil war, forced millions of Somali families into northern Kenya’s vast Dadaab refugee camps where, for children, shortages of food, water, hygiene and schooling has endangered physical, emotional and mental health.
An important upside aspect is that mitigation actions to reduce emissions would yield healthier living environments for young children: cleaner urban-industrial air, reduced car reliance and more physical activity, more recreational green space in cities, and improvements in types of foods produced and consumed.
Children warrant special concern – as children per se, and as the coming generation likely to be exposed to ever more extreme climate conditions later this century. As children they face diverse risks from violent weather, proliferating aeroallergens, heat extremes and mobilised microbes through to reduced recreational facilities, chronic anxieties about the future, and the health hazards of displacement and local resource conflict. Many will regard their parents’ generation and complacency as culpable.
: climate change; food sufficiency; food shortage; malaria; diarrhoea; drought; extreme climate; heat extremes; mental health; emissions; climate change mitigation

Title: Climate Change and Child Human Rights
Author: Karen M Kiang1,2
1 Centre for International Child Health, The University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics, Melbourne, Australia
2 Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville, Australia
Abstract: Children suffer most of the current health-related consequences of climate change. Of the estimated 160,000 yearly deaths attributable to climate change in the early 2000s, 88% were in children and 99% were amongst those living in developing countries. Climate change is expected to worsen the main causes of child mortality worldwide, and is already impeding progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. The area of human rights is concerned with securing basic entitlements granted to every person by the virtue of his/her existence. These entitlements include not only freedoms of speech, thought, religion and personal security, but also include the rights that enable individuals to realize these freedoms, such as the right to health, food, shelter, education, and work. For children, climate change is clearly a human rights issue. The basic universal rights to adequate food, clean water, physical and mental health, shelter, education, security, and most fundamentally, the right to life, are already being compromised. As the discipline of human rights also concerns itself with justice and law, structuring climate action around an international human rights framework is a powerful yet under-utilized tool that can provide additional impetus for action, since it establishes the ethical and legal obligations of countries towards their own people and towards one another. The main human rights instruments that directly address the welfare of children are the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Bill of Human Rights (consisting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its two associated Covenants). This paper will describe in greater detail how the rights of children are being compromised by climate change and how human rights tools can (and must) be applied to address these issues.
Keywords: children; ‘climate change’; ‘global warming’; ‘human rights’; ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’

Title: Climate Impacts of Ambient Air Pollution and Temperature on Health: Epidemiologic Data Requirements
Author: Gavin Pereira 1,2
1 Center for Perinatal Pediatric and Environmental Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven CT
2 Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, 100 Roberts Road, Subiaco WA 6008 Australia
Abstract: The cli,mate varies naturally as well as in response to anthropogenic forces. Irrespective of the cause, it is now widely accepted that climate change has tremendous potential to affect human health. Direct atmospheric influences, such as the increased frequency of heat wave or cold spell events, have been recognised as potential threats. In contrast, the direct effects of ambient air pollution on human health has drawn less attention. Medical and public health scientists have concluded there are causal associations between certain ambient air pollutants (notably particulate matter and tropospheric ozone) and adverse health outcomes (notably cardiovascular mortality and respiratory morbidity). Atmospheric scientists have described the influence of the climate on ambient air pollutants as well as the converse. Therefore, the climate impacts of ambient air pollution on human health is a certainty. What remains uncertain is the level of impact.  Children are among the most vulnerable. Past studies have associated air pollution with impaired lung function and exacerbation of respiratory symptoms. There is also suggestive evidence that elevated exposure in utero is associated with adverse birth outcomes, such as fetal growth restriction and preterm birth. At geographically local scales, the impacts of changed patterns of ambient air pollution and thermal stresses may exceed those resulting from changes in ecological infrastructure.  Without suitable epidemiologic data, the climate impacts of ambient air pollution and temperature on health is unascertainable. This study describes the major data requirements in terms of temperature and air pollution monitoring, health surveillance and target populations.
Key words: climate change; air pollution; particulate matter; public health; environmental health

Title: Climate Change, Child Health and Wellbeing: Prevention Better than Cure
Author: Fiona J. Stanley
Affiliation: Patron, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia Vice Chancellor’s Fellow, The University of Melbourne
Abstract:I am not a climate science expert but I accept what the climate scientists are telling us and I am very concerned at how climate change issues have fallen off the public and political agenda. My expertise is in child health development and wellbeing where I have focussed mostly on prevention using data and research that enables the elucidation of causal pathways. The approach is to prevent problems before they become irreversible, costly to treat or impossible to mitigate. This approach is not only logical, it is cost-effective and humane. The best example of this approach in health is vaccination. In this article I bring this logical approach to one of the biggest threats to the wellbeing of the children of today and tomorrow - climate change. Causal pathways into rising rates of "ill being" in children are the very same pathways that have led to climate change. Ongoing failure to adopt preventive strategies means that there will be an ever increasing need for more end stage services with enormous costs for many services. In the West our health systems are already feeling the pressure from overconsumption, diabetes, obesity and mental health problems. If we don’t act quickly they will be even more pressured as climate change effects swamp them. We are not too late to prevent the worst effects but we are getting dangerously close to midnight.
climate change; child health and wellbeing; wicked problems; prevention

Title: Will Global Climate Change Alter Fundamental Human Immune Reactivity: Implications for Child Health?
Authors: A Swaminathan 1,2, RM Lucas 1,3, D Harley 1 and AJ McMichael 1

1 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
2 Infectious Diseases Department, The Canberra Hospital, Canberra, Australia
3 Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
The human immune system is an interface across which many climate change sensitive exposures may affect health outcomes. Gaining an understanding of the range of potential effects that climate change may have on immune function will be of considerable importance, particularly for child health, but has, as yet, received minimal research attention. We review various mechanisms whereby climate change sensitive exposures and conditions will subtly impair aspects of the human immune response, thereby altering the distribution of vulnerability within the population to infection and disease. Key pathways include through undernutrition, chronic heat stress, psychological stress and changing exposure to ultraviolet radiation, with effects on susceptibility to infection, allergy and autoimmune diseases. Other climate change sensitive exposures may be important and interact – either additively or synergistically, to alter health risks. Conducting directed research in this area is imperative - the potential public health implications of climate change-induced weakening of the immune system at both individual and population levels are profound. This is particularly relevant for the already vulnerable children of the developing world, who will bear a disproportionate burden of future adverse environmental and geopolitical consequences of climate change.
Key words
: climate change; immune function; nutrition; ultraviolet radiation; infection; heat; stress

Last update: 23 April 2014

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