Heat waves currently account for significant mortality and morbidity and climate change is resulting in more frequent, more intense, and longer heat waves. Developing effective prevention strategies for heat-related illness and morality is of critical importance. We hypothesize that significant differences in heat-related health risks exist between urban and rural communities. The research proposed here extends our initial work in developing community-engaged research in underserved urban and rural communities in Alabama. In it we propose to gather community-level and individual-level heat and air pollution exposure data in communities. This analysis will result in a more precise picture of exposures to heat and air pollution as well as behavioral factors that may medicate exposure in at-risk populations in the Deep South. We propose to do the following in the present study: 1) Build our current collaborations that bridge diverse research disciplines and local level government and community organizations in urban (Birmingham) and rural communities in the Black Belt region of Alabama through community advisory board meetings and capacity building workshops , 2) Measure community-level heat and air pollution exposure in urban and rural communities by setting up stationary monitoring sites where community members frequent, 3) Determine individual-level exposure by recruiting community members to wear personal monitors and 4) Identify behavioral and physiological parameters associated with personal exposure through daily activity logs and questionnaire. The proposed investigation will contribute to prevention research by identifying specific exposure and behavioral risk factors in urban versus rural communities which will aid in developing prevention strategies tailored to the needs of these communities. Spatially explicit vulnerability maps that apply remote sensing datasets will inform community prioritization and planning applicable to a broader geographical scale.
Increasing evidence suggests effective strategies for preventing heat-related illness and mortality will require community level interventions. Working with community groups, the proposed research will determine whether significant differences in vulnerability to heat-related health impacts exist between underserved urban and rural communities in the Deep South.
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