Today’s World Health Organization report highlights the impact our changing landscapes are having on childhood health and signals an imperative to increase focus on improving environmental health, a Virginia Tech expert says.

“Children represent the most vulnerable of our society and the least able to improve their environment,” said Professor Kathleen Alexander, who is available for interview from Africa. “If we secure the health of our children, we have secured the health of our communities and the landscapes on which we depend.”

Quoting Alexander
“It is important to note that childhood health impacts are not restricted to the developing world. Pollution is on a dramatic rise in industrialized nations such as the United States and China where children in these regions can be exposed to dangerous toxins, unsafe water, and food, as well as impaired living environments.”

“We can learn from Africa. In many places such as Botswana in Southern Africa, governments are increasing their focus and investment in environmental protection, realizing the long-term importance to their nation and people. The United States should follow the standard set by many of our sister African countries and invest, rather than dismantle and disempower, agencies with environmental oversight as such as the Environmental Protection Agency.”

“These institutions were established to protect our children and families. The WHO report reminds us how important these institutions are and the dire need for their continued and expanding role in monitoring and protecting our families during this unprecedented period of environmental change and degradation.”


The World Health Organization report says more than a quarter of deaths of children under five-years-old each year are attributable to unhealthy indoor and outdoor environments, including air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.

About Alexander

Alexander is a professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment whose research focuses on understanding the factors that influence the emergence and persistence of diseases at the human-wildlife-environmental interface, as well as disease dynamics such as culture and behavior, gender dimensions, and climate change. Her research aims to design solutions that better inform public health policymakers.

Request an interview
Alexander is available from Africa via phone, Skype, and WhatsApp. To secure an interview, contact Jordan Fifer by email at or 540-231-6997.

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