Addressing Climate Change
Conclusive evidence has demonstrated that climate change is negatively affecting the lives of people in the United States and around the world. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as an organization representing physicians and other health care professionals who care for women and everyone seeking obstetric and gynecologic care, recognizes that climate change is an urgent women’s health concern and a major public health challenge.
Environmental exposures, including those related to climate change, have a disproportionate effect on women’s health and further exacerbate health inequitiesi. The effects of climate change include food and water insecurity, civil conflicts, extreme weather events, and spread of disease—all of which put women at elevated risk of disease, malnutrition, sexual violence, poor mental health, lack of reproductive control, negative obstetric outcomes, and deathii. These factors also harm the health of communities and future generations, such as the erosion of the health care infrastructure needed to support healthy women and healthy families and studies suggesting an association between extreme temperatures and preterm birth and low weightiii.
As climate change continues to adversely affect the well-being of women, people seeking obstetric and gynecologic care, families, and communities, ACOG supports greater recognition of and investment into addressing the effects of the environment on public health. Specifically, ACOG:
- Calls on our national and international leaders to act to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit further climate destabilization
- Encourages our members and affiliated health care systems to support environmentally responsible practices in order to decrease the environmental impact and carbon footprint of medicine
- Supports clinical and community-based research into the effects of climate change on health, especially as it affects women, racial and ethnic minority populations, and underresourced populations
- Promotes policies and programs that seek to mitigate the health-related harms of climate change on women’s health
ACOG recognizes that addressing climate change is an urgent health priority that affects everyone. As leaders in women’s health care, we support a proactive approach to this important issue.
i World Health Organization. Gender, climate change and health. Geneva: WHO; 2014. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/GenderClimateChangeHealthfinal.pdf. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
ii Reducing prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 832. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2021;138:e40–54.
iii Bekkar B, Pacheco S, Basu R, DeNicola N. Association of Air Pollution and Heat Exposure With Preterm Birth, Low Birth Weight, and Stillbirth in the US: A Systematic Review. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(6):e208243. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8243.
Approved by the Executive Board: January 2016
Revised: April 2016
Reaffirmed: April 2018
Revised: November 2021