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Promotion of international collaborative research related to children's health and the environment

Date: Thursday 1 November 13.30–15.00
Source: Forum 11
Authors: William Suk, PhD, National Institute of Environmental Health Research, Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
with Jenny Pronczuk de Garbino and Simona Surdu


In recognition of emerging and re-emerging environmental health issues and the special vulnerability of children to environmental hazards, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners have, with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Research (NIEHS), significantly strengthened and integrated its activities related to children's health and the environment.

In addition to forming a multistakeholder global alliance to implement worldwide action on reducing environmental risks to children, WHO promotes research collaboration in children's environmental health among scientists in developing and developed countries. Such research collaborations are critical to addressing health problems in their national and local contexts, and must involve local communities.

Cooperative research activities started through the twinning of scientists from industrialized and developing countries, and the promotion of harmonized core research protocols. The strategy adopted combines a regional approach with a stepwise process that includes: 1) establishing expert advisory groups; 2) identifying key concerns, assessing issues and data gaps; 3) promoting and following-up collaborative research activities.

Ongoing international collaboration on issues such as asthma in children, arsenic exposure during pregnancy/early childhood, biomonitoring of persistent toxic substances, biomarkers of benzene exposure and longitudinal cohort studies are presented. The results of these research studies will be used to recommend specific prevention and remediation strategies, and other interventions, and also to promote evidence-based public health policies at the community level. These collaborative activities also result in technology transfer and capacity-building, and in the build up of a network of trained scientific collaborators throughout the developing world.