There is a growing body of evidence that outdoor ambient temperatures are associated with short-term increases in daily mortality, with greater susceptibility in vulnerable populations. The U.S. has the largest incarceration rate in the world and recent studies show that over half of Americans have a had a close family member in prison or jail. However, research is lacking on the effects of ambient temperature exposures on this vulnerable population. This F31 dissertation project will investigate the association between ambient temperatures and mortality in U.S. incarcerated populations. This project involves combining detailed data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) on each mortality in U.S. state prison facilities with temperature information collected from state-of-the-art climate monitoring stations located across the United States. Ms. Julie Skarha, an epidemiology doctoral student at Brown University, will conduct this secondary data analysis using data that is currently available to her. The resultant manuscripts from these analyses will form the basis of Ms. Skarha?s doctoral dissertation. Support from this F31 grant will enable Ms. Skarha to complete this project of high public health significance, which will provide her with the necessary training and credentials to pursue a post-doctoral training position following her graduation from Brown University. She ultimately plans to become an independent academic researcher focused on environmental health and vulnerable populations. Ms. Skarha will use the BJS data on the mortality of approximately 42,000 people incarcerated between 2001 - 2013 to determine:
(Aim 1) the association between ambient temperatures and mortality in U.S incarcerated populations;
(Aim 2) whether associations differ by determinants of health such as sex, age, or race;
and (Aim 3) whether associations differ by characteristics of the facility, such as security type or capacity, and regional characteristics. If our hypotheses are confirmed, this F31 project would provide the first evidence of the increased susceptibility of incarcerated persons to ambient temperatures. This will have important implications with regards to the health of the nearly 10 million people who pass through the U.S. incarceration system annually.
This F31 project will investigate the association of ambient temperature with mortality in U.S state prisons and determine differences in susceptibility by individual, facility, and regional characteristics.