EXPOSURE TO EXTREME HEAT EVENTS AND CHRONIC RESPIRATORY DISEASES AMONG A NATIONALLY REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE OF THE UNITED STATES POPULATION
Romeo, Crystal Eloma
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Previous studies have shown that extreme weather events are on the rise in response to our changing climate. Such events are projected to become more frequent, more intense, and longer lasting. A consistent exposure metric for measuring these extreme events as well as information regarding how these events lead to ill health are needed to inform meaningful adaptation strategies that are specific to the needs of local communities. Using federal meteorological data corresponding to 17 years (1997-2013) of the National Health Interview Survey, this research: 1) developed a location-specific exposure metric that captures individuals’ “exposure” at a spatial scale that is consistent with publicly available county-level health outcome data; 2) characterized the United States’ population in counties that have experienced higher numbers of extreme heat events and thus identified population groups likely to experience future events; and 3) developed an empirical model describing the association between exposure to extreme heat events and hay fever. This research confirmed that the natural modes of forcing (e.g., El Niño-Southern Oscillation), seasonality, urban-rural classification, and division of country have an impact on the number extreme heat events recorded. Also, many of the areas affected by extreme heat events are shown to have a variety of vulnerable populations including women of childbearing age, people who are poor, and older adults. Lastly, this research showed that adults in the highest quartile of exposure to extreme heat events had a 7% increased odds of hay fever compared to those in the lowest quartile, suggesting that exposure to extreme heat events increases risk of hay fever among US adults.