We premiered our Let’s Talk Climate webcast series with a trio of speakers sharing information and insights on the impacts climate change is having on motherhood, pregnancy, and birth outcomes in a changing climate and what we can all do about it. Through our research at ecoAmerica, we know that majorities of Americans are worried about and experiencing climate change now. We’ve also found that moms in particular are even more worried about the future. More than 9 in 10 mothers say they feel morally responsible for creating a safe and healthy climate for ourselves and our children.
Speakers dove in with recommendations and a call to action right from the start. In our opening question about pregnancy during the dual crises of climate change and COVID-19, we discussed:
- The need for strong leadership
- The importance of a social support system during pregnancy
- Systemic vulnerabilities
- Opportunity for organizational and individual sign on to the U.S. Call to Action on Climate, Health, and Equity
“There is a real appetite in the community and with elected officials to hear from health professionals, to hear from doctors and nurses, and it feels really good to be a part of that conversation.” – Dr. Bruce Bekkar
We also learned about the very specific impacts that heat and air pollution are having on adverse birth outcomes like low birthweight and preterm birth, which have lifelong impacts. Health inequities baked into our systems exacerbate these impacts, and we must address the social determinants of health as we seek equitable climate solutions that improve our health and the health of future generations.
“Having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy family dovetails with a healthy climate.” – Dr. Santosh Pandipati
And to conclude the webcast, we asked our guests what their take home message in a new climate-focused chapter of What to Expect When You’re Expecting would be. Nse Witherspoon answered, “Our leadership matters, and impacts your health and wellbeing directly…and I don’t think I have seen this in any What to Expecting” book, VOTE.”
Here are some thoughts on listener questions we didn’t get to during the webcast:
What voter registration and get out the vote activities will any of the groups on the call be taking this year?
- For those of you who are interested in helping to get out the vote, you can go to vote.org for a wealth of resources. We will be encouraging everyone to read the climate change platforms of all candidates and make informed decisions.
I’m a policy management grad student graduating in July. I’d like to know from the panelists if you have any thoughts on where you think there could be career opportunities to be of service within the intersectionalities of health, climate, and communities of color.
- Congratulations on your well deserved graduation this summer! There are growing careers in built environment arenas, community planning, green chemistry, sustainable eco districts in cities, healthy housing/schools, to name a few. There are also opportunities in think tanks and advocacy organizations, in national and local environmental organizations. You may also consider working for an elected official in their local office, or for a state regulatory agency.
How do you suggest we clinicians approach the task of educating our patients’ families on climate change?
- Approach it from a position of empowering your patient and their families. To treat a complex condition, provide information on that condition and the treatments available. Then you can begin to tie in connections to climate change. Dr. Santosh Pandipati gave the example of a pregnant patient who is slightly obese. To improve health outcomes for the patient and their family, let them know the risks for gestational diabetes and begin talking about a health diet and exercise. Let them know to watch out for the air quality index if they are exercising outside, and when they ask why you can explain the ways climate change is impacting air quality. Light bulbs will be going off in their minds, and encourage them to engage their families in these discussions and decisions.
Make sure you register for our next episode of Let’s Talk Climate, “Nature vs. Climate & COVID-19” on Thursday, June 4, and keep up the conversation on social media with #LetsTalkClimate.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ climate position statement, “Global Climate Change and Children’s Health”
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Policy brief for the United States of America (p.5 includes an infographic explaining unequal health vulnerability in a heatwave, including birth complications)