Proposer le développement de politiques pour la salubrité environne-
mentale des enfants au Nouveau-
Brunswick

Les effets des polluants environnementaux sur la santé et le développement des jeunes enfants et des bébés en gestation sont devenus un enjeu qui gagne du terrain partout sur la planète.

Présentement, un mouvement international de scientifiques et de décideurs prépare des politiques et des programmes afin de réussir deux résultats : la réduction de l'exposition des enfants aux polluants environnementaux, et des environnements plus salubres pour nos enfants.

Durant les quelques prochaines années au N.-B., on peut s'attendre à rencontrer de plus en plus d'activités relatives aux pesticides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How prepared are we in New Brunswick to rise to this challenge? 

My view is that we are better prepared than we may think. When we look at the factors favouring the advancement of policies in CEH, there are quite a few:

We have comprehensive early childhood programming, good monitoring data, and knowledgeable and compassionate civil servants in this field.

We have strong grassroots agencies, e.g., the NB Lung Association and the NB Environmental Network.

Thanks to our industrialized north and south, we have local pockets of interested citizens, and potentially, industry leaders.

There are also interested research "chairs" and other academics at our major universities.

Advancing Policy Development in New Brunswick for Children's Environmental Health


Bonnie Hamilton Bogart
Independent research consultant,
20/20 Planning Services Reg'd.
April 25, 2005

II don't know how many "public policy watchers" there are out there, but it can be a fascinating pastime . . . watching an issue gather momentum, or possibly languish for years, then burst onto the political scene, become a "hot button" issue, be addressed in some fashion by the policy makers, and then transform itself into a non-issue.

I've learned that there are at least three potential ways for a topic to become a non-issue:

Policies can be proposed, perhaps even put into the political platform of a party, but do not materialize as programming. (Witness the national child day care policy - hovering precariously close to becoming a non-issue at the time of writing.)

Policies and programs are developed and implemented, but do not endure. (Witness ParticipAction.)

Policies and programs are institutionalized, that is, they are accepted as a clear role of government. (Witness Medicare.)

The last option is the one we are seeking for the issue of Children's Environmental Health. Once policies and programming are 'institutionalized', they are no longer an 'issue' in search of a program. The program has become entrenched, and no rationale politician will tinker with it or remove it from the spectrum of public services.

The impact of environmental pollutants on the health and development of young children and unborn babies has become an issue which is now gathering momentum in the global community. Currently, in 2005, an international movement of scientists and policy makers are actively creating policies and programming around these two desired outcomes:

Reduced childhood exposures to environmental pollutants

Healthier environments for children


(photo: Pediatrician site)

Internationally, at the level of the World Health Organization, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America, the Environment Leaders of the G8, the European Commission and others, multi-lateral action is now taking place in the fields of research, policy development and programming around environmental health. Canada is now accountable to the world community via several international agreements focusing on children's environmental health issues. Some of the issues for which we are accountable include:

  • risk assessment and standard setting,
  • children's exposure to lead,
  • microbiologically safe drinking water,
  • air quality,
  • environmental tobacco smoke,
  • emerging threats to children's health from endocrine disrupting chemicals and other new threats, and
  • the impacts of global climate change on children's health.

New Brunswick's response to the issue of children's environmental health will be driven by the national context, which is in turn being driven by the international community - a perfect example of the inter-connectedness of our global ecosystem!

Over the next couple of years in New Brunswick, we can expect to see a growing number of activities on this issue within our public health, social services and environmental departments and perhaps the agriculture and aquaculture department. They will be called to action by corresponding structures at the national level, which will be responding to the pressures of international accountability.

For example, as recently as 2003, Health Canada set up the Office of Children's Environmental Health, whose mandate is "to advance the protection of children's health in Canada from environmental risks and to prevent related negative health impacts."

For the fiscal year 2005 - 2006, their priorities have been identified as:

  • Lead (Blood levels, house dust)
  • Indoor environments
  • Dietary exposures
  • Support research

Traditionally, Health Canada bodies have sought input from related agencies around the country, via consultations or participation on national committees.

If we are to move children's environmental health issues into the minds and hearts of the public, caregivers and decision-makers, where would we start? First, let's take a look at some suggestions from those who have succeeded in catalyzing policy change - the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and our own Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN):

EPA:

  • Get grassroots support
  • Get political support
  • Focus on science
  • Build on current programs
  • Use an integrated approach
  • Create a dedicated office with staff
  • "Institutionalize" the issue

CPRN:

  • First, define the need based on bottom up consultations with neighborhoods, a broad regional view of the issues and an integrated analysis of economic, environmental and social issues.
  • Then, build the coalition of people who can make a difference.
  • Gain active support from senior government agencies, i.e., technical advice, regulatory support, research and development funding, etc.
  • Gain a commitment to measure results at regular intervals, thereby holding all parties accountable and making progress transparent to citizens.

The New Brunswick Environmental Network is already taking the initial steps to bring together the people who can make a difference. As a collective, this soon-to-be-formed coalition may wish to consider moving forward in these ways:

Develop an overarching and unifying Statement of the Issue, including a definition of the need from a broad New Brunswick perspective and an analysis of potential outcomes if the issue is not addressed, and the benefits that would accrue for the province, if it were adequately addressed.

Develop proposed policy goals.

Develop proposed research priorities.

Develop proposed strategic directions and approaches.

Develop a multi-sectoral action plan.

This is a straightforward formula for moving the issue of Children's Environmental Health forward in New Brunswick. We have all the ingredients we need - dedicated professionals, organizations that are prepared to make a difference, and a competent and compassionate civil service. In the year 2015, will we be able to look at the results of our work and see that government, regulatory bodies and relevant industry have 'institutionalized' the consideration of children's environmental health in their decision-making? If the answer is 'yes', then all our efforts will have been worth it!


My future is in your hands.