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Limiting the impact of air pollution on child health

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Air pollution levels in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, are among the highest in the world.

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Henlo van Nieuwenhuyzen

Henlo Van Nieuwenhuyzen

This study collected evidence to support policy for reducing or eliminating the consequences of respiratory diseases caused by air pollution in Ulaanbaatar through coherent policy commitment. The specific purpose of the analyses was to conduct public expenditure and institutional analysis. This led to recommendations for the Government of Mongolia and Municipality of Ulaanbaatar on budget interventions and public financial management arrangements to significantly decrease respiratory diseases caused by air pollution amongst children.

Challenges

Exposure to air pollution of such a magnitude has very serious health consequences, particularly for children. It is essential that stakeholders will not only invest in measures to reduce air pollution levels, but also in reducing children’s exposure, in treating children with air pollution related diseases, and in measures that strengthen their overall health to reduce their vulnerability to air pollution. This follows Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 24 on children’s health, which includes specific reference to environmental pollution).
Potential interventions include:

  • rolling out of the Pneumococcal Vaccine;
  • improving indoor air quality in the public facilities for children;
  • providing guidance to the public on the use of, and access to, good quality face masks; and
  • a sustained public outreach campaign.

In order to make a compelling case for the adoption of these interventions, a cost of inaction study accompanied by an assessment of budgetary space for their introduction is necessary.

Our approach

Our study evaluated how much the public health system is currently spending on diseases related to air pollution amongst children, projected the health costs if no action is taken, discussed potential interventions to reduce the burden of air pollution on child health, and assessed the budgetary space for investments in such interventions.

Outcomes

The resulting report (‘Mongolia’s air pollution crisis: A call to action to protect children’s health') provides recommendations for the Government of Mongolia and Municipality of Ulaanbaatar on budget interventions and public financial management arrangements to significantly decrease respiratory diseases caused by air pollution amongst children.

UNICEF has already expressed interest in replicating the study in other countries, as well as seeking funding to implement its recommendations. Furthermore, the findings of the study have been covered in relevant media outlets including Reuters, Relief Web, and Xinhua News.

Areas of expertise