Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Climate-Human Health Vulnerability: Identifying Relationships between Maximum Temperature and Heat-Related Illness across North Carolina, USA

Heat kills more people than any other weather-related event in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. In North Carolina, heat-related illness (HRI) accounts for over 2,000 yearly emergency department admissions. In this study, data from the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collect Tool is used to identify spatiotemporal relationships between temperature and morbidity across six warm seasons (May-September) from 2007 through 2012. Spatiotemporal relationships are explored across different regions (e.g. coastal plain, rural) and demographics (e.g. gender, age) to determine the differential impact of heat stress on populations. Additionally, HRI incidence will be mapped across North Carolina and linked with land cover and socioeconomic data to determine which local characteristics correlate with an increase in a population's risk for HRI. This research reveals that most of these heat-related illnesses occurs on days with climatologically normal temperatures; however, HRI rates increase substantially on days with abnormally high daily maximum temperatures . HRI ED visits decreased on days with extreme heat, suggesting that populations are taking preventative measures during extreme heat, and therefore mitigating heat-related illness. Analyses also reveal the largest number of heat-related illnesses occur in rural locations, particularly in areas of the Coastal Plain where a large percentage of the population lives below the poverty line and engage in outdoor labor.