FEBRUARY 9, 2015—The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has selected Georgetown University’s School of Nursing & Health Studies as the new academic home for the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, a regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit.
According to the CDC, Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) “bring together a unique combined expertise of pediatric and occupational environmental medicine in order to improve environmental health for children.” The mission of the Mid-Atlantic Center is to improve the recognition, evaluation and management of environmental health problems and reduce environmental health disparities among children.
Laura Anderko, PhD, RN, the Robert and Kathleen Scanlon Chair in Values Based Health Care at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, will direct the Mid-Atlantic Center at Georgetown, which covers the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
Unique Risks for Children
“The Mid-Atlantic Center will provide information to the public and consultation to health professionals around environmental risks that impact children,” explains Anderko. She says that task addresses key day-to-day issues the public and health provides face. It also helps support regional response capacity should there be an occurrence of a large event exposing children to toxins or a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or wildfire.
“Children are especially vulnerable to exposures to environmental hazards as they breathe, drink and eat more per pound of body weight than adults, thereby receiving a greater exposure than adults,” Anderko explains. “Children also behave differently than adults, and these behavioral differences impact their exposures.”
The region three PEHSU was formerly housed at Children’s National Medical Center. The CDC awarded Anderko more than $700,000 for a period of five years to direct the federally funded initiative at Georgetown. The award is administered through the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Building Environmental Health Capacity
“We are really quite thrilled that Dr. Anderko has been tapped to lead this federal initiative,” says Patricia Cloonan, PhD, RN, interim dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies. “The effort will support our school’s mission of advancing the health and well-being of individuals and communities, as well as specific strategic goals related to community engagement, interprofessional education, and reducing health disparities.”
Cloonan notes that the PEHSU adds to the school’s growing capacity in areas of environmental health, including the introduction of an undergraduate minor in environmental and occupational health and a graduate-level certificate in occupational and environmental health.
There are more than a dozen PEHSUs located within the United States, Canada and Mexico. To read more about PEHSUs, click here.
By Karen Teber