School Nurses Can Support Climate Health

Earlier this month CleanAIRE NC presented at Charlotte–Mecklenburg County’s School Health Program Meeting, where we met with more than 130 public school nurses to discuss the health impacts of our changing climate and air pollution.

This summer has been a record-breaking year for climate change. North Carolinians are feeling the impacts, ranging from extreme heat, poor air quality fueled by wildfire smoke, and severe thunderstorms with heavy rain, flooding, and pounding winds that have caused thousands of power outages across the state. 

Educating health professionals about climate change is more relevant now than ever. That’s why we’re ramping up our education, engagement, and training for health professionals.

How School Nurses Can Support Climate Health

As children return to school over the coming weeks, here are a few other climate and health impacts we would like to share: 

Youth Are Among the Most Vulnerable

Asthma is the leading chronic disease among children and youth in the United States. Hotter weather and air pollutants such as soot (PM 2.5) are common triggers of asthma attacks for kids. Air pollution also increases children’s risk for COVID-19 and cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke later in life. 

There is also emerging research that identifies air pollution as a risk factor for depression, anxiety, suicide, and risky behaviors, disproportionately impacting youth due to their still-developing brains.

Engaging school nurses to recognize and treat these climate-driven health problems is essential. 

leading causes graph
Nurses are the Most Trusted Professionals in the Country

School nurses in particular are on the frontlines of preventing and caring for student health and are critical in responding to the health impacts associated with a changing climate. That’s why we’re thankful Mecklenburg County school nurses are seeking to learn and identify how social and environmental factors can impact public health and worsen disparities. 

We look forward to further collaboration opportunities and engagement with school nurses, health professionals, and other stakeholders to provide education and share resources. Together we’re pursuing collective actions and solutions to ensure that all North Carolinians have access to clean air and a livable climate.