Providers - Environmental Health
Every child deserves to live, play, learn and grow in healthy environments. This is why the Indian Health Service (IHS) Head Start Program considers environmental health to be a top priority. Environmental health includes food safety, fire safety, disaster preparedness, sanitation, building safety, air quality, playground safety, injury prevention and illness prevention.
A review of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Head Start grantee programs by environmental health specialists revealed the following major areas of concern:
- Infectious disease control
- Building design and safety
- Lighting and electrical systems
- Sanitation and disinfection
- Medication handling, storage and administration
What can you do in your center to promote environmental health?
- Educate families about allergens that can trigger asthma attacks.
- Ensure that your center is free from allergens.
- Educate families about disaster preparedness and encourage them to develop an emergency plan and kit.
Head Start Environmental Health Resources:
A word about Asthma
Asthma is a lung disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, tightness of the chest and coughing. It's made worse by allergies and by viral and bacterial infections. Respiratory illness is the leading cause of hospitalizations for AI/AN children. In fact, of the 9 million children nationwide who have asthma, more than 20 percent are AI/AN. Twelve percent of all AI/AN populations have asthma-a rate significantly higher than rates in other populations.
Proper cleaning at Head Start centers and at home reduces allergens and kills the germs that make kids sick. Allergens and germs are both important factors for AI/AN children with asthma. Some of the environmental factors that can trigger asthma attacks include:
- Dust mites
- Pests, such as cockroaches and rodents
- Pets, such as cats and dogs
- Secondhand smoke
- Airborne irritants, such as household cleaners and sprays, gasoline fumes and ozone
Head Start Asthma Resource:
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