An infants foot being held by their mother.

Health effects of air pollution

Journey to Change: The Road to COP28

20 March 2024
4 min read

Agnes Agyepong, founder and CEO of Global Black Maternal Health, details her experience at COP28 talking about the links between air pollution, climate change, and maternal health. 

Agnes Ageypong of Global Black Maternal Health
Agnes Agyepong
Founder and CEO of Global Black Maternal Health

A voice for maternal health  

As the founder and Chief Executive of Global Black Maternal Health, I’m committed to addressing maternal health inequalities worldwide. This mission is not just professional; it’s a personal crusade against the stark disparities affecting Black women during childbirth.

Maternal health inequalities: A global crisis

In the UK, Black women are nearly four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women, and three times more likely to experience a stillbirth.  

This alarming fact isn’t confined to the UK; it echoes across the globe, from America to Africa, where 70% of the world’s maternal deaths occur. These disparities represent more than statistics. They signify real families facing unthinkable losses. Addressing maternal health disparities means addressing the environments in which women give birth. 

Maternal health and air pollution

Air pollution, an often-overlooked environmental factor, significantly exacerbates maternal health risks.

Time and time again, research shows us just how damaging air pollution is for pregnant women and their babies. Just a few examples: 

Meanwhile, Black residents are exposed to more levels of illegal air pollution than any other ethnic group in some of the UK’s major cities, which increases the likelihood of stillbirths and numerous other complications for expectant mothers. These environmental factors are not just confined to London and the UK – but are global 

It’s a crisis hidden in plain sight, demanding urgent attention. 

Our Black Child Clean Air Report: A Milestone

Our Black Child Clean Air report, a first-of-its-kind study, marks a significant step in understanding and addressing these issues.  

We delved into the attitudes, behaviours, and experiences of Black pregnant women and mothers in London, uncovering their concerns about air pollution. While most were aware of the general negative effects of air pollution, many were less informed about its impact on prenatal and early childhood health.

These insights are critical for developing focused recommendations for families and professionals in healthcare and the environmental sector. 

Since its launch on Clean Air Day, our report has gained acclaim from key figures, including the Mayor of London and the President of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Our presentation at the Labour Party Conference further propelled the discussion among policymakers. 

The Road to COP28

This summer I presented our findings in Ghana, engaging with significant figures like Samira Bawumia, the Second Lady of Ghana. 

I am a member of the Ladies Entrepreneurship Club and their collaboration with the Great Green Wall initiative paved the way to COP28. As part of the that initiative’s efforts to support Africa’s goals for COP28, I was invited to speak to showcase our Black Child Clean Air Initiative in the broader context of Africa and the Paris Agreement. 

What did I do at COP28?

At COP28, I shared these insights to an even wider audience, highlighting the need for research led and focused by communities. I hope the leaders will acknowledge the urgency of protecting vulnerable populations from air pollution and its intersectional ties to climate change. 

What next for Global Black Maternal Health?

We’re committed to further advocacy and research, amplifying the voices of those most affected, and driving community-led solutions. Our goal is a healthier, more equitable world for all. 

In essence, our work on maternal health and air pollution is intrinsically linked to the broader issue of climate change. Addressing maternal health disparities necessitates a focus on the environments where women give birth.

Find out more about Global Black Maternal Health

Global Black Maternal Health is a Black-led, global body whose key focus is to research, inform, amplify and create solidarity with Black maternal health movements around the world

Visit Global Black Maternal Health's website