Climate Research Initiative

Heat & Health

Heat & Health

ECRI Point of Contact: Rebecca Philipsborn

Faculty Collaborators: Noah Scovronick (Rollins School of Public Health), Roxana Chicas (School of Nursing)

Increased exposure to hot outdoor temperatures is the most direct consequence of climate change, and already-marginalized populations are most at risk. Climate change is already responsible for ~20 heat deaths annually in Atlanta, a number that will increase in the coming decades without intervention. Extreme heat also leads to non-fatal sickness and disability, strains the health system, and reduces labor productivity. Heat-related deaths and illnesses are underreported, partially due to them not being recognized and/or coded as heat-related by healthcare providers. The goals of the following research projects aim to improve our understanding of heat vulnerability and aid in the design of interventions and policies to protect vulnerable populations. 

The first project will use data from Emory hospitals (i.e. from the Clinical Data Warehouse) to rapidly identify patients presenting with heat illness, who can then be contacted to learn about their risk factors, including: activity patterns, housing quality, occupational exposures, health co-morbidities and socioeconomic characteristics. This work can be coupled with educational training on heat illness for Emory healthcare staff as well as with Emory’s business and legal resources to identify opportunities to reduce future risk. 

The second project aims to understand the health and economic consequences associated with occupational heat exposure in Atlanta, for example in construction workers and others who work outdoors.