Climate change and its impact on human health will soon be made part of the school curriculum, so children can learn how to protect themselves from climate sensitive illnesses such as heat stroke and respiratory diseases.
The proposal is a part of the ministry of health and family welfare’s National Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health (NAPCCHH) that is aimed at protecting women, children and marginalized sections of the society.
“We are planning to include climate sensitive illnesses and related mitigation and adaption measures in students’ curriculum. We are working in tandem with the ministry of human resource development (HRD) to integrate climate change with nutritional status and health into school and college curricula," said Jagdish Prasad, director general of health services (DGHS), ministry of health and family welfare.
The health ministry, working with the HRD ministry, plans to integrate the health effects of extreme heat events in students’ curriculum. Teachers will be trained in first aid measures for heat waves. Schools and colleges would be advised to prevent outdoor activities during heat waves, according to the proposal.
Apart from heat waves, air pollution-related diseases would also be a focus in lessons. “We have also proposed the inclusion of harmful health effects of environmental pollution in the school curriculum, including current policies and mitigation practices that are designed to reduce air pollution," said Prasad.
“Communication interventions in schools are effective approaches to disseminate important information. We are in the process of developing materials for teachers’ training so that they can educate children," he said.
The health ministry has said children should be regularly screened for climate sensitive illnesses and provided a pollution-free environment in schools and colleges.
“We have proposed regular screening of school children for early detection of diseases, which can be attributed to the existing air pollution. We have also urged the HRD ministry to improve indoor air quality of educational institutions nationwide," said Prasad.
“Walkability and access to educational institutions by non-motorized transport should also be improved, thus minimizing the air pollution in the school surroundings. We have proposed that students and teachers should be sensitized to use the Air Quality Index (AQI) in planning outdoor school activities," he said.
Research studies across the world have shown that climate change may have negative health effects. A rise in heat-related illnesses and deaths, increased precipitation, floods and droughts are costing lives. With climate change, there is an increase in transmission and spread of infectious diseases due to changes in the distribution of water-borne, food-borne and vector-borne diseases, experts say.