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Do heat advisories increase medical emergencies? Depends on where you live.

Climate change activism has raised awareness about concerns all over the globe: shrinking glaciers, interruptions in ecosystems, extreme weather patterns, just to name a few. But there are pressing concerns right in our own neighborhoods. An important connection to make, climate change and environmental issues directly affect public health. For example, the COVID-19 crisis is more heavily affecting communities with high air pollution. And now, a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health has revealed that heat advisories in the City of Boston resulted in an increase in medical emergencies in neighborhoods with higher ground surface temperatures.

Prof. Dan O’Brien and a team of researchers recently studied urban heat islets, or urban areas with higher temperatures during heat waves. Analyzing 911 calls over 3.5 years, the study assessed that there were 10% more emergency calls for conditions such as cardiac arrest, serious illness, and seizures on heat advisory days. They also discovered that even from street to street and neighborhood to neighborhood, temperatures can vary at an alarming rate⁠—It was these areas that experienced increases in medical emergencies.

For the study design, neighborhood tracts were broken down into 30-meter squares, while 911 calls were tracked from those same tracts over a period of approximately 3.5 years. Over the course of that same time period, there were 25 days with heat advisories during the months of June to September. Using hierarchical linear modeling, researchers assessed that more calls for medical emergencies in neighborhood tracts with higher ground temperatures were made on heat advisory days.

These results raise awareness for both policymakers and citizens to anticipate and prepare for these urban heat islets and other future climate-related threats.

Read the full study here.

Published On: May 26, 2020 |
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