PODCAST: Uncovering Extreme Heat’s Hidden Impacts with Rose Jones

Medical anthropologist Rose Jones speaking at Texas State University’s recent climate summit. Image: Greg Harman

We know that extreme heat negatively impacts every organ in the body, triggers mental health conditions, contributes to spikes in domestic violence, and much more.

So why are policymakers and public health officials struggling to understand who is being injured and killed by the heat?

Greg Harman

Reporters and editors delivered piles of headlines this summer writing about the many heat records so recently eclipsed. It’s been the hottest July and August the Earth has seen since long before official record-keeping began—likely the hottest in more than 130,000 years. But what that has meant for people living through it has gotten far less ink. Part of the reason may be that policymakers and public health officials continue to strain to understand or explain how this remarkable heat is impacting people.

In a recent presentation, Texas-based medical anthropologist Rose Jones called the systems for tracking and understanding heat’s impact a “train wreck.” Now in dialogue with Deceleration, Jones explains why our understanding of heat’s impacts is so poor. Reasons include official disinterest, lack of medical training, the unnecessary politicization of climate science, and “media inertia.” But with this summer’s scorching, Jones says the time is now to fix these systemic failures with new holistic approaches to public health and data collection.

Click above to listen to our conversation with medical anthropologist Rose Jones.

“Medicine prides itself on being evidenced-based medicine. And that’s true for many of the disorders we address, but not for heat. And that’s not acceptable,” Jones says. “This summer is a harbinger to where we’re going. So this is not a problem that is going to go away. It’s totally unacceptable that we don’t have basic data for knowing how many people are getting sick and how many people are dying. This has to be fixed.”

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