Excessive heat. Emerging diseases. Severe storms and off-season illnesses. The environmental hazards associated with climate change threaten the physical and mental health of children and families — and can be a source of anxiety. It’s not just speculation. Communities are already impacted by climate change effects such as heat illness from dangerous temperatures, asthma hospitalizations from earlier and more severe pollen seasons, and trauma from severe wildfires and storms.

“When we talk with parents about what’s good for their kids, part of our job is connecting the dots between our changing climate and their children’s health,” says Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, a pediatrician. “All children need exercise, nutritious food, and stable communities to thrive. But, climate change poses new challenges for our patients, from struggling to breathe due to wildfire smoke, to flooded homes from extreme rainfall events, to extreme heat. When we talk about the need to heal the planet, we are also talking about protecting our children’s ability to grow up in a safe, healthy world.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which has long recognized the impact of climate change on children, recently announced a new strategic initiative on environmental health and disaster readiness as a 2024 priority outlined by its Board of Directors. The AAP is recommending steps not only for communities and policy makers, but also for families.

Here are a few suggestions:

Help your community adopt climate solutions.

The AAP recommends a transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy like wind, solar, and geothermal. Join forces with a local group to help bring clean energy to your school, town, state, or even country. The AAP also recommends that communities incorporate healthy transportation systems, including public transit and walkable, bikeable pathways that allow children to be outdoors and active. Families can get involved at the local level to help create safe routes to walk and bike where you live.

Let kids know that their voices and advocacy can be powerful.

Kids may be inspired to know that some of our most effective and powerful climate advocates today are children and youth. Support their engagement in local, state, and national climate solutions.

Reduce your own energy consumption and waste.

Walking, biking, taking public transit, carpooling, and adopting a more plant-forward diet are all ways to help promote health for kids and the planet.

Show them you care.

Let kids know that their adult caregivers — pediatricians included — are committed to climate action solutions that protect their health and their world.


“What is healthy for the planet is also healthy for children,” says Dr. Ahdoot. “Pediatricians and parents share the same goals — to protect children’s health today, and ensure they have a healthy future in adulthood. Protecting our planet helps preserve a healthy world that can provide all children the nutrition, play, and community stability they need to thrive.” Learn more at www.HealthyChildren.org.