| Pediatricians Need More Training On Environmental Health
Doctors and nurses need more environmental health training to prevent,
recognize, and treat diseases caused by environmental exposures,
according to a new study funded by the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences. Experts recommend that medical and nursing schools
add environmental health topics to training programs.
"We know pediatricians want to provide the best care possible,"
said Dr. Allen Dearry, NIEHS associate director. "We want them
to have the tools they need to protect their patients against environmental
A group of experts made up of physicians, nurses, and educators
issued recommendations to incorporate environmental health into
pediatric medical and nursing education. The study, conducted by
the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, also
identifies key medical and nursing organizations that could help
promote environmental health training, such as the American Academy
of Pediatrics and the Association of Faculties of Pediatric Nurse
Practitioners. The study results will be published in the December
2004 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
The expert group studied the medical and nursing education systems
from undergraduate education through continuing education courses.
The experts identified places in the educational systems, such as
licensing exams and field work for nurses, where environmental health
could be incorporated. The group also recommended that government
organizations should focus on advancing children's environmental
The study reviewed ongoing evaluations of medical and nursing training
programs. Previous studies have shown that pediatric residency and
undergraduate medical and nursing education programs do not routinely
include comprehensive pediatric environmental health training in
their curricula. Few pediatricians are trained to ask their patients
questions on environmental exposures or give advice on environmental
poisons, although most see patients with health issues related to
the environment, and the majority of parents have expressed worry
about their children's exposure to environmental poisons. Furthermore,
childhood diseases related to the environment in American children,
such as lead poisoning, asthma and cancer, cost Americans billions
The group of experts included representatives of National Academy
of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Agency for Toxic Substances
and Disease Registry, Association of American Medical Colleges,
American Public Health Association, Children's Environmental Health
Network, George Washington University, Medical University of South
Carolina, Children's National Medical Center, Temple University,
Oregon Health Sciences University, Rutgers School of Nursing, Northeastern
University, Drexel University, Howard University, and the University
of North Carolina School of Public Health.
"It's essential that we give more priority to pediatric environmental
health," said Leyla Erk McCurdy at the National Environmental
Education and Training Foundation. "By following our recommendations,
pediatric health care providers will be better equipped to recognize,
treat, and prevent diseases related to factors in the environment."