Researchers propose global initiative to study female health across species

By Jim Logan
Santa Barbara, CA

Giraffes have the highest blood pressure of all mammals – up to 300/200, more than double that of a typical human. But pregnant giraffes don’t suffer from pre-eclampsia, a dangerous disorder caused by hypertension.

The giraffe’s protection against pre-eclampsia is just one case in which females of numerous species have a resistance to maladies that affect women, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, infertility and more.

UC Santa Barbara associate professor of anthropology Amy Boddy and her colleagues want to understand how this happens. More broadly, they’re interested in the shared health vulnerabilities of female animals across species – mammalian, reptilian, avian, piscine – and how awareness of them can improve women’s health.

To that end, they’re proposing a global initiative that would focus on the health of female animals at a time when climate change is accelerating environmental degradation, which disproportionately affects women and girls.

As the paper notes, “The health of female mammals, birds, reptiles and fish living in and around human communities has become increasingly relevant to women’s health as anthropogenic changes blur the boundaries that once demarcated human versus animal environments. In the 21st century, all female animals – including every human female – have become canaries and the Earth, a shared, planetary coal mine.”

Led by Dr. B Natterson-Horowitz, a cardiologist and evolutionary biologist at UCLA and Harvard University, the initiative would bring together specialists from human medicine, veterinarians, wildlife biologists and more. It’s an ambitious project and still in its infancy, but necessary, Boddy said.

“There are many field ecologists and wildlife veterinarians that observe health problems/chronic diseases in the field populations and wildlife they study,” said Boddy, whose research

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