Research

A list of just some of the research projects at The University of Arizona related to extreme heat. Please contact us if you'd like to feature your project.

Pinal County Public Health Services District Implementation and Monitoring Strategy (IMS) for Heat-Related Illness

Project Contact: Erika Austoff

Pinal County Public Health Services District (PCPHSD) conducted syndromic surveillance using Biosense ESSENCE syndromic surveillance software to determine the burden of Heat-Related Illness (HRI) among Pinal residents, better understand HRI risk factors/populations, and develop effective interventions to reduce the number of HRI cases that occur annually. Project activities included a descriptive epidemiological analysis of HRI cases from historical hospital discharge data, syndromic surveillance and mortality surveillance of HRI cases among county residents during May-September of 2018, medical chart reviews, and interviews with cases who visited an ED or were admitted to a hospital for HRI. The purpose of this surveillance and analysis was to understand the burden of HRI within the county, as well as characterize HRI risk factors (e.g. occupational, recreational, economic). From May 1st to September 30th, 2018, temperatures reached 116oF. During these months, ESSENCE identified 212 HRI cases. 168 cases were confirmed as true HRI following thorough chart reviews.

Funding: Arizona Department of Health Services

 

Battling Arizona Heat with Cooling Centers in Yuma County

Project Contact: Erika Austoff

The Yuma County Public Health Services District (YCPHSD), the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), and researchers from Arizona State University developed a strategy to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths related to heat by increasing the effectiveness of cooling centers in Yuma County. The first step in this strategy was to use multiple evaluation techniques including surveys, observations, and interviews to understand the role of cooling centers in mitigating heat related illnesses and deaths. A team of public health officials and researchers conducted surveys at known gathering places of individuals who might benefit from cooling centers, including homeless shelters and public parks. The surveys included questions about cooling center accessibility and use and heat-related knowledge and behaviors. Subsequently, the project team interviewed cooling center facility managers to better understand current practices, resource constraints, and perceived challenges and opportunities for delivering heat-protective services to those in need.

Funding: Arizona Department of Health Services

Evaluating the Use of Urban Heat Island and Heat Increase Modeling in Land Use and Planning Decision-Making

Project Contact: Ladd Keith, Ph.D.

The impacts of the urban heat island (UHI) are well documented, including increases in heat-related public health issues, stresses on urban ecology, and energy usage to mitigate the higher temperatures. UHI is of particular concern to cities in the Southwest, since it counteracts the cooling that otherwise normally occurs at night. While UHI mapping and modeling has become more sophisticated in recent years, there is still an information gap between the heat maps and models, urban planning and design strategies to decrease heat, and the use of that information in policy decision-making. This study focuses on documenting the current use of urban heat maps and models in communities in Arizona and New Mexico and evaluating best practices and opportunities to increase their usability.

Funding: CLIMAS (Climate Assessment for the Southwest)

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Border Heat-Health Partnership

Project Contact: Gregg Garfin, Ph.D.

This U.S.-Mexico border heat-health partnership began as a pilot project of the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), focused on the region encompassing El Paso County (Texas), Doña Ana County (New Mexico), and Ciudad Juárez (Chihuahua). Partners include academic researchers from universities along the U.S.-Mexico border, members of the local National Weather Forecast Office, city and county officials in each of the three focus cities, and state officials from New Mexico, Texas, and Chihuahua. The ultimate goal of the partnership is to reduce heat-related illness and deaths in the region by developing the capacity to prepare for and respond to extreme heat events. Several working groups ("work streams") are addressing these issues by improving regional heat forecasts, assessing current knowledge of extreme heat vulnerability and public health risks, improving public health data collection, and improving public awareness of the impacts of extreme heat.

Funding: National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS)

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Tucson Verde Para Todos

Project Contacts: Andrea Gerlack, Ph.D., Adriana Zuniga-Teran, Ph.D.

To promote a strategy to address inequities in GI funding, siting and implementation, this project embraces a collaborative, participatory community engagement project to facilitate the design and adoption of GI demonstration projects in the communities, traditionally underserved, low-income communities in southern Tucson.  The project has also partnered Bo Yang, Ph.D., and a graduate landscape architecture studio to develop a green infrastructure plan for STAR Academic High School with solar canopies and tree canopy for increased shade.

Funding: Agnese Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice, UA Green Fund

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