Extreme heat: Who is most likely to die?

Medina-Ramón has recently co-authored a study that aimed to identify if certain population groups were more susceptible to dying from extreme temperatures. The authors also examined whether certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, played a role in susceptibility and which mortality causes experience the largest relative increases on days with extreme temperatures. The survey data included 7,789,655 deaths across 50 U.S. cities from 1989 to 2000 and daily temperatures in those cities. This is the first large-scale study to examine how susceptibility of certain populations to extreme temperatures varies according to the cause of death.

The results suggest that public health professionals should pay particular attention to the elderly, diabetics and African Americans on days with extreme heat, such as during the current heat wave sweeping across much of the U.S.

African Americans were more susceptible to extreme heat in the case of cardiovascular-related death; diabetics were more susceptible when non-cardiovascular causes were involved.

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The paper, "Extreme Temperatures and Mortality: Assessing Effect Modification by Personal Characteristics and Specific Cause of Death in a Multi-City Case-Only Analysis," is available free in the current online Environmental Health Perspectives.

(http://www.ehponline.org/members/2006/9074/9074.pdf)

To interview Medina-Ramón, please contact Todd Datz.

Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public's health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 300 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 900-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children's health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights. For more information on the school visit: www.hsph.harvard.edu


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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