Research Spotlight: Dr Stephanie Sodero

In an interview with HCRI, Lecturer in Responses to Climate Change, Stephanie Sodero, talks about her research on vital mobilities, the movement of blood, and how medical supply chains are vulnerable to a changing climate.

Stephanie SoderoTell us about your research focus on mobilities concerning contentious mobilities, vital mobilities, climate discourse, and climate pricing.

In my current research, I focus on vital mobilities - movements that impact life chances.

These are external societal mobilities of goods, people, and information that enable critical internal bodily circulations, such as the use of insulin and vaccines.

I am particularly interested in how global and diffuse medical supply chains are impacted by a changing climate, such as floods and hurricanes. My research is grounded in the mobilities paradigm, which examines the ubiquitous and complex mobilities and immobilities of people, objects, ecologies, and more, that make up contemporary society.  

How does your medical anthropology research contribute to wider research in humanitarian response, global health, and disaster management?

As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Medical Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, I studied blood. That is: How does blood move from the point of donation to the point of care? How are these journeys susceptible to a changing climate?

I looked at the disruption to blood supply chains caused by snow and ice in Canada and by flooding in the U.K. Through my research, I highlight how these vital mobilities are vulnerable to a changing climate, information that is key for disaster management.

In reference to your doctoral thesis, which is the basis of your upcoming book: Under the Weather: Mobility in the Climate Crisis, what key themes do you address? 

In my dissertation, I tell the story of two record-breaking hurricanes that impacted Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia is home).

In my book, which is currently under review, I use these cases to theorise the intersection of human mobility, fossil fuels, severe weather, and climate change. In short, fossil-fueled mobility creates carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. Moreover, in turn, severe weather, intensified by climate change, disrupts mobility. This circularity needs to be a central consideration in policy thinking and decision making.

Tell us about your current research on global trade in the mobility of medical supplies.

Right now, I am focusing on the vital mobilities of saline IV solution and oxygen. These are mundane but vital substances.

Globally, many medical products are sourced in low-wage, low-tax regions with minimal consideration of potential climate impacts. In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, a major manufacturer of medical supplies. Located in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is vulnerable to more frequent and intense hurricanes due to climate change. In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit. Locally, healthcare suffered due to power outages, causing more than 4,500 deaths. In addition, there were also wider effects, including widespread saline IV solution shortages on mainland U.S. My research highlights the impacts of climate change on health care delivery.

How did you contribute to 2018 Being Human Festival? 

Just as blood circulates in the body, it also circulates in society. I created Bloodscape, a self-guided scavenger hunt that let residents see Edinburgh through the lens of blood - including changing trends, global campaigns and, even Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling wrote the series in Edinburgh). This event drew on research conducted at the University of Edinburgh in Medical Anthropology, such as my research on how severe weather disrupts blood delivery and Morteza Hashemi’s research on how immigrants use blood donation as a tool of social integration. 

What are your future research plans?

I plan to continue my research on vital mobilities, exploring diverse medical supply chains. Through this work, I want to draw attention to the complex and extensive journeys of medical supplies from the point of manufacture to the point of care, as well as address a critical gap in social scientific knowledge about global medical supply chains and their vulnerability to climate change, and identifying adaptation measures.

You can find out more about Stephanie’s research on her website.

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