Position Brief - Climate Change Impacts on Child Health

Climate Change Impacts on Child Health

Position Brief

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It is the position of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) that climate change is a serious threat and present danger to the health, safety, well-being, and future of our nation's children. Climate change effects include increased rates and severity of communicable and non-communicable diseases, severe weather events, threats to the food and water supply, negative impacts on mental health, and exacerbation of social and health inequities (Meyer & Pachauri, 2014).  In addition, detrimental climate-related effects are harming the ecosystems in which we live (Reis et al., 2015).  Children are among the most vulnerable to these threats, especially those who live in poverty, suffer from chronic disease, and are otherwise disadvantaged (Haines & Ebi, 2019)


Immediate, comprehensive, and bold action is needed in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of the changing climate (Masson-Delmotte et al., 2018). Evidence-based polices and investments may, in fact, lead to improved health and equity (Rudolf, 2018).  School Nurse Scope and Standards of Practice and ethical considerations support the involvement of registered professional school nurses (hereinafter referred to as school nurses) in efforts to combat and mitigate climate change health effects (ANA & NASN, 2017; NASN, 2016a).  School nurses can improve the health of their students and communities by implementing the Framework for 21st Century School Nursing Practice™ principle of Community/Public Health, including the practice components addressing environmental health, social determinants of health, and health equity (NASN, 2016b).  As school and community healthcare providers, school nurses are ideally positioned to raise awareness of climate change effects on health by sharing evidence-based information, implementing and supporting public health campaigns, and advocating for effective actions via local, state, and federal legislation and public policy. 


American Nurses Association (ANA), & National Association of School Nurses (NASN). (2017). School nursing: Scope and standards of practice, 3rd Edition. Silver Spring, MD: ANA & NASN.

Haines, A., & Ebi, K. (2019). The imperative for climate action to protect health. New England Journal of Medicine, 380(17). doi:10.1056/nejmc1902963

Meyer, L., & Pachauri R.K.(2014). Climate change 2014: Synthesis report. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Rep.) (R. Pachauri, Ed.). Geneva, Switzerland: IPCC.

Masson-Delmotte, V., Zhai, P., Pörtner, H. O., Roberts, D., Skea, J., Shukla, P.R., ... Waterfield, T. (2018) IPCC, 2018: Summary for policymakers. In Global warming of 1.5°C: An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening  the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty . World Meteorological Organization: Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp.

National Association of School Nurses (2016a). Code of ethics for school nurses. Retrieved from https://www.nasn.org/nasn/nasn-resources/professional-topics/codeofethics

National Association of School Nurses. (2016b). Framework for 21st century school nursing practice.  NASN School Nurse, 31(1), 45-33.

Reis, S., Morris, G., Fleming, L.E., Back, S., Taylor, T., White, M., …Austen, M. (2015). Integrating health and environmental impact analysis. Public Health, 129(2015), 1383-1389.

Rudolph, L., Harrison, C., Buckley, L. & North, S. (2018). Climate change, health, and equity: A guide for local health departments. Oakland, CA and Washington D.C.: Public Health Institute and American Public Health Association.

Acknowledgment of Author:

Kathy L. Reiner, MPH, BA, BSN, RN

Adopted:  September 2019

Suggested citation: National Association of School Nurses. (2019). Climate change impacts on child health (Position brief).  Silver Spring, MD: Author.

“To optimize student health, safety and learning, it is the position of the National Association of School Nurses that a professional registered school nurse is present in every school all day, every day.”

All position briefs from the National Association of School Nurses will automatically expire 18 months after publication unless renewed and recommended for position statement or other NASN document development.