April 18, 2023

Exploring the State of Environmental Health and its Intersection with Women’s Health 

By Monica Lefton, Communications Manager 

Seasonal allergies. Getting frostbite from being out in the cold for too long. Dehydration due to heat and high temperatures. 

There’s no denying our health is linked to the environment around us. This intersection is sometimes referred to as environmental health, a field of public health that focuses on the relationships between people and their environment to promote human health and well-being. As environments change – across seasons, through changing ecosystems, and through global warming – so, too, do the impacts of environmental health.  

There are countless private and public groups dedicated to the work of understanding and improving environmental health, with growing interest in this field. Within the federal government alone, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) works to make environmental health research responsive to individuals and translate environmental health science findings into knowledge that can inform public health; the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coordinates protection from environmental hazards; and the newly established Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) was established to address the impact of climate change on health and serves as a hub for climate change and health policy, programming, and analysis—and these are just a few.  

Each group has a varied focus on the intersection of health and environment. For example, OCCHE’s work acknowledges that environmental impacts in communities can differ greatly based on geography, race, ethnicity, gender, health status, and more. Disparities in environmental impact can create or greatly exacerbate health disparities: 

Such disparities are greater for some groups, including women. Women’s health across the lifespan is intertwined with environmental health; women and girls are anticipated to “experience the greatest impacts of climate change,” as their health is often more impacted by environmental changes, UN Women writes. These impacts may start small but can lead to major health risks and adverse outcomes, affect their roles as caregivers, and influence generations to come: 

Given the growing impact of the environment on women’s health and overall disease burden, the spaces of environmental health and women’s health are ripe for research and innovation that improve health outcomes for all. For example, researchers are currently investigating the impacts of environmental stressors—such as the chemicals, pollutants, and ingredients in everyday products—on pregnancy outcomes and overall health to better understand and address health risks in new parents and babies.

This April, for Earth Month and ahead of Earth Day on April 22, learn more about how different organizations are thinking about and approaching environmental health and where they see gaps and opportunities in environmental science 

Below, SWHR has provided links to various resources, tools, and information to a short collection of different public health and research entities and their work specifically on environmental health – and its intersection with women’s health. 

Federal Agencies and Their Approach to Environmental Health 

Nonprofit Organizations’ Work in Environmental Health 

Academic Resources on Environmental Health