Climate Research Initiative

High ambient temperature is a well-recognized environmental hazard to human health. Heat exposure is exacerbated in the urban environment due to high density of heat-absorbing structures, lower vegetation coverage, and increased human activity. The urban heat island effect can increase daytime temperature by 1- 7°F and nighttime temperature by 2-5°F compared to outlying areas. Within a city, the spatial variation in ambient temperature has been shown to result in heat exposure disparities associated with under- resourced communities

While large population-based epidemiologic studies have reported various adverse health effects of heat, there remain important knowledge gaps in understanding: 

  1. who is at-risk of heat- related health outcomes
  2. how an individual’s resource constraints, perceptions, and behaviors impact personal heat exposure and heat-related outcomes
  3. what features of the physical environment contribute to an individual’s heat exposure

The overarching goal of this project is to better understand factors leading to differential susceptibilities, particularly factors related to physiologic predisposition and exposure pathways that can help inform mitigation and adaptation strategies. 

  • We will first conduct a large case-only analysis in Atlanta, leveraging electronic medical records (EMR) from Grady Memorial Hospital (hereafter Grady) and Emory Healthcare. Grady is a large public hospital, and Emory Healthcare is a multi-hospital system. 
  • To address limitations associated with EMR data, we will also conduct a complementary matched case-control study to assess behavioral, social, economic, and housing-related factors that may contribute to risk heterogeneity. 
  • Finally, we will work with community partners to conduct exposure monitoring in order to fill knowledge gaps in the contribution of residential environments and time-activity patterns on personal heat exposures among under-resourced populations. 

Our transdisciplinary team with expertise in environmental epidemiology, exposure assessment, biostatistics, community-engaged research, and data science will address three project aims.

Aim 1

Identify disparities in associations between heat and emergency department (ED) visits in Atlanta, GA

Aim 2

Assess risk factors among patients experiencing heat-related illness (HRI) requiring ED care using a mixed methods matched case-control study design

Aim 3

Characterize temperature exposure for individuals living in under-resourced communities