There are a number of specific public health concerns that are highly relevant to children. Some of these concerns, such as the increase in asthma and allergy rates and the continued decrease in the age at which people start to smoke, have been scientifically documented. In addition, there are a number of emerging health threats that have been the subject of attention in recent times by both policy-makers and the scientific community. These include the apparent increase in childhood cancers in some countries, the association between birth defects and hazardous waste contamination of landfill sites, and the potential risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and genetically modified organisms.
At 1993, almost 150 countries had signed commitments to specific goals for their countries to improve the health of children and women (arising out of the 1990 World Summit for Children). These goals include (a) reduction of child mortality rates by one-third (or to 70 per 1,000 births, whichever would be less) over the course of the decade of the 1990s; (b) reduction of maternal mortality rates by half; (c) eradication of polio; and (d) major reductions in morbidity and mortality from several other infectious and deficiency diseases. Commitments to specific improvements in education, nutrition, water supply and sanitation were also made.
In order to maintain a strategic vision and address the environmental health threats to European children, the European Environment and Health Committee (EEHC) is recommended to identify a mechanism, such as an international platform, to support, promote and coordinate relevant international activities in the area of children's health. Such a mechanism could be developed in partnership with the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, Member States of WHO's European Region, and international and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). It could take the form of a network of partnerships among international organizations such as UNEP, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the European Environment Agency (EEA), WHO and NGOs, in order to take into account the work already carried out by other international and regional bodies. This platform should serve the double function of, on the one hand, maintaining a strategic approach by promoting and encouraging public health measures in areas of emerging concern, and, on the other, advocating measures to protect children's health in a variety of situations.