by Alexandra Destler, Founder and Director, SafetyNEST Science + mySafetyNEST
I started SafetyNEST with the deep conviction that every pregnant woman and family deserves clear, credible, and actionable guidance to safeguard their pregnancy and family. While it is widely accepted that toxic chemical exposure contributes to reproductive, child, and adult disease, addressing these exposures has been largely absent from professional healthcare practice.
Despite women being highly motivated to avoid chemical exposure and safeguard their health and that of their children, a lack of training, tools, and expertise among most reproductive health professionals has meant that not many advisors counsel pregnant women about these exposure risks.
Fold into the mix environmental racism and health inequity.
Many toxic chemicals disproportionately impact vulnerable populations and are subsumed in issues of environmental racism, environmental justice, and health inequity. Underserved women and families are left more susceptible to adverse health impacts and less likely to have access to evidence-based educational materials to guide them in reducing their exposures. The impacts of chemical exposure are exacerbated by other factors, including stress, nutritional status, housing quality, hazardous workplace environments and poverty.
Given this backdrop, I was incredibly honored when recently invited to develop and deliver a training focused on reducing chemical exposures in the home for a broad network of Bay Area doulas serving pregnant women of color, many of whom are low income.
With the support of SafetyNEST Science donors, I designed a curriculum with the goal to equip doulas (and other health professionals) with expertise and tools to safeguard the health of their clients’ pregnancy and baby by reducing household toxic chemical exposures linked to disease. The curriculum highlights the “Top Ten” changes to make in the home, safer (and affordable) alternatives and many resources for safer shopping (particularly personal care and beauty products, which are disproportionately targeted and marketed to women of color, putting them at greater risk for exposure to toxic chemicals), safer cleaning, safer eating and more.
I was delighted that Dr. Marya Zlatnik accepted my invitation to co-deliver these doula trainings—offering participants a nice blend of perspective and expertise. Marya serves as Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at UCSF, and is a close collaborator of UCSF’s Program in Reproductive Health and the Environment, a SafetyNEST Science partner and advisor.
I’m pleased to report that the trainings were successfully delivered over the course of two, 2-hour sessions. Doulas were highly engaged in the presentation and conversation—and expressed interested in continuing to engage with SafetyNEST Science and UCSF in the future.
Next up for SafetyNest Science? I will begin outreach to continue delivering these trainings to health professionals and NGOs serving pregnant women and new families, with an emphasis on reaching women of color and vulnerable communities statewide and beyond. I believe that in a just society, health equity implies that everyone has a fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible. I look forward to SafetyNEST Science continuing to contribute to disseminating vital health information via heath professional trainings about toxic chemicals.
Switching gears to SafetyNEST Science’s sister organization, mySafetyNEST.com, I’m thrilled to share that mySafetyNEST was recently selected to receive a government innovator award focused on preventing common chemical Exposures in the Home, particularly those targeted at women of color. This is SafetyNEST’s first award—and it’s fair to say that I’m over the moon!
With the award funds, SafetyNEST will test, redesign, and strengthen the SafetyNEST digital health platform and app. The aim is to enable easy information access to trusted guidance about toxic chemicals, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and prevent harmful exposures found in the home among pregnant women and families. We will leverage the most current environmental health research and translate it via an engaging redesigned website and app, new video content, and plenty of social media that engages, educates and empowers diverse audiences to take action. If successful, this project is one that health professionals can trust and seamlessly share with their patients as part of clinical visits.
Ultimately and over time, SafetyNEST Science and mySafetyNEST aim to dramatically reduce the incidence of preventable diseases linked to toxic chemical exposures among pregnant women and new families, particularly those most vulnerable.
Let’s safeguard the next generation!
It’s a lofty goal, but with your generous support (please donate here), I will lead with my heart, faith, continued perseverance and step by step, we will get there!