The Health and Well-Being of Children from the Perspective of Social and Environmental Health Policy

Frederica P. Perera
Environmental health is an integral component of public health and, therefore, of social welfare. Yet both social and environmental health scientists have failed to adequately consider the mutual benefits of --and synergism between-- environmental and social policies aimed at the protection of the health and well-being of children. The emerging scientific evidence that social and physical/chemical "toxicants" interact to cause childhood illness and impair children's development is providing new
more » ... impetus to the integration of these disciplines. Child labor reform in the late 19th century can be seen as a milestone in the translation of science to policy. For the first time, scientific recognition of children's biological and psychological vulnerability was a major factor in shaping public policy. Yet the role of science as a force in shaping the perception of the value of the child and as a driver of reform during this period has not been widely recognized. The first paper, entitled "The Role of Science in Child Labor Reform in the Early Progressive Era (1870-1900)", describes how the growing understanding of physicians, toxicologists, sociologists, and psychologists that childhood was a biologically vulnerable period of life informed progressive reformers who used this knowledge, along with socio-economic, cultural and moral arguments, to advocate for reform. During the past several decades, there has been an exponential growth in scientific knowledge concerning the biological vulnerability of the developing fetus, infant, and child both to the toxic effects of environmental pollutants and psychosocial stressors associated with poverty or race/ethnicity. However, data are limited on the possible cumulative or synergistic effects of physical and 'social' toxicants on child health and development. The second paper, entitled "Interaction between Prenatal Exposure to Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Maternal Psychological Distress in Pregnancy on Child Behavior ", provides new evidence of the complex cons [...]
doi:10.7916/d8xs62h5 fatcat:i4gkemk2lbcwrei7kfhqrzdkge