World Health Day 2003 – Healthy environments for children

WHO/Europe has taken the lead in action for children. On World Health Day 2003, we want to officially launch the preparations for the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health (Budapest, 2004). Its theme, "The future for our children", focuses its activities within the broad context of sustainable development.
Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe
(2000 -2010)

In the WHO European Region, World Health Day 2003 focuses on asthma and allergies: leading causes of chronic illness in childhood that are related to environmental hazards.

In most European countries, the prevalence of asthma symptoms in children increased by 200% between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s. In the European Union, allergic disease is the most common chronic illness of childhood, estimated to affect more than 25% of children in some countries.

Children have a special vulnerability to environmental hazards, and their behaviour makes them vulnerable to greater exposure. These factors combine to generate or trigger a wide range of negative health effects. Worldwide, 40% of the disease burden attributable to environmental threats falls on children under 5 years (10% of the global population).