Dr. Latrica Best Talks Climate Change and Health for Aging and Equity Series

by Adam Felts

The AgeLab’s Aging and Equity speaker series once again brought a critical perspective to the realities of excluded and underserved communities and their intersection with aging and the life course. Dr. Latrica Best, Associate Professor of Sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College, gave a talk titled “Climate Change and Health: Age and Intergenerational Considerations” on January 27, 2023.

Dr. Best’s talk looked at climate change and health from an intergenerational and age perspective. Rather than focusing on a single study, she provided an overview of why researchers should think about aging and specifically intergenerational health and how we can learn more about climate related health events by studying people across generations.

Some key takeaways:

-Climate change-related health risks are the greatest global threat to public health today.

-Older adults are highly susceptible to climate-related health issues such as heat exposure, respiratory concerns related to air pollution, infectious and chronic disease, and cognitive decline.

-The risks that older adults face from climate change intersect with racial and class inequities. For example, Boston’s Chinatown, which is populated with a significant number of lower-income and older Asian-Americans, is one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city, with minimal infrastructure to protect residents from heat and sun exposure.

-Older adults are not only the objects of climate-related health risks, but possible subjects of activism and community-justice initiatives. Engaging older adults both in terms of fighting for their own health and for their legacy are ways to activate them for volunteer efforts.

Dr. Best also spoke about the frameworks of intergenerational justice and environmental justice, which demand that people and communities are entitled to equal protection by environmental and public health laws and regulations, with attention to disparities in vulnerability due to age.

To have an impact on supporting vulnerable individuals and communities, Dr. Best called for more research and an increased focus on intergenerational health as an equity and justice issue. Future research should focus on the particular experiences and circumstances of diverse populations—looking at age, space, and identity—and how people at the intersections of these are affected.

Dr. Best briefly touched on policy reform and offered some reference links:

Justice40 Initiative

Climate & Economic Justice Screening Tool

Environmental Justice For All Act

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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