The Covid-19 pandemic promises to make it even harder for many people to endure the heat of the coming summer season.
In other years, people experiencing dangerously hot weather could visit a cooled mall or river, activities that may be curtailed or forbidden by social distancing measures governments have taken to slow the spread of Covid-19. Recession and job cuts may mean more people will struggle to pay for cooling, for many a lifesaving necessity. Older people, children, and outdoor workers are well-known “at-risk” groups for heat illness.
Less well-known at-risk populations for heat-related health issues include pregnant people. They and babies are more vulnerable to heat illness than healthy people. A growing body of epidemiological research shows a connection between exposure to high temperatures during pregnancy and preterm birth and other adverse birth outcomes. Therefore, the rise in heat due to climate change poses a threat to achieving reproductive justice, including the right to have a healthy pregnancy.
This is at a time when preterm birth rates are rising globally. In the United States, rates are higher for Black and Native American women than white women. Those with the least resources, including women in poverty or marginalization, some of whom make a living as farmworkers, will be most vulnerable to heat and other factors that lead to preterm birth.
On June 19, a group of experts will come together at the invitation of Human Rights Watch and two key US reproductive justice organizations to discuss the impact of heat on pregnancy and what that means in a world facing a climate crisis.
Linda Goler Blount from the Black Women’s Health Imperative and Lexi White from In Our Own Voice will address the issue in the context of the fight for reproductive justice in the US. Dr. Rupa Basu will provide an update on the epidemiology available on this problem and what it means. Dr. Ana Bonell is studying the biology of heat, working with pregnant farmworkers to measure physiological changes. Dr Adelle Monteblanco will talk about providing information to pregnant people and health workers. Charo Valero is an activist fighting for women’s rights on many fronts, including a bill to protect workers from heat in Florida.
Please join us and register here: