Advancing Understanding of Human Health and Societal Vulnerability to Extreme Heat Events in Boston, MA
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Williams, Augusta A.
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CitationWilliams, Augusta A. 2019. Advancing Understanding of Human Health and Societal Vulnerability to Extreme Heat Events in Boston, MA. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
AbstractClimate change is resulting in heatwaves that are more frequent, severe, and longer lasting, which results in public health threats to both morbidity and mortality. This is especially true in the Northeast United States, where heat-related mortality is projected to potentially triple by the end of the century if adequate climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies are not implemented. The first paper explored how central air conditioning and window air conditioning units were not equally adequate in overcoming high temperature loads indoors, and demonstrated how as thermal decompensation begins, protective behaviors were not widely enacted. The second paper aimed to determine if vital social services are impacted by extreme heat in Boston to help inform future adaptation planning. These results demonstrated that the Boston Police, EMS, and Fire Departments all experience more calls on hot days, with the Fire Department having the greatest relative impact on these days. The third paper used a case-only analysis to compare effect modification by individual, and small-area social and environmental heat-related risk factors on at-home and outside of the home mortality in Boston, MA. Census tracts with a greater proportion of people with limited English proficiency and low-to-no income individuals were more highly represented in those who died during the study period, but area built environment features, like a greater density of street trees and newly renovated buildings were able to reduce the relative odds of death within and outside the home. The fourth research papers aimed to evaluate the spatial distribution of these small-area social and environmental factors that determine heat vulnerability to at-home mortality in Boston, MA. The spatial analysis of these factors in relationship to at-home mortality rates on hot days found that neighborhoods like Roxbury, East Boston, and Dorchester are socially and environmentally vulnerable to a greater at-home mortality rate on hot days, and should be prioritized in heat adaptation planning.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41594095