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Area-level risk factors for heat-related illness in rural and urban locations across North Carolina, USA
- Kovach, Margaret M., Konrad, Charles E., Fuhrmann, Christopher M.
- Applied geography 2015 v.60 pp. 175-183
- at-risk population, autocorrelation, geography, heat, low educational status, mortality, population density, poverty, regression analysis, risk factors, rural areas, rural communities, vegetation, North Carolina
- An improved understanding of heat vulnerable populations and locations is needed, especially in rural communities. The objective of this study was to identify area-level risk factors for heat-related illness (HRI) at the ZIP code level for urban and rural locations. We aggregated ZIP code-level emergency department visits into rural and urban locations based on population density. Area-level risk factors included previously established heat health risk factors (e.g. poverty, minority) and unexamined area-level risk factors common to rural locations (e.g. mobile homes, agriculture). Due to high spatial autocorrelation, a spatial error regression model was applied to identify risk factors with a significant relationship with HRI. Our results suggest that rural locations are also heat vulnerable, with greater rates of HRI compared to urban locations. Previously unexamined heat-health risk factors, including the number of mobile homes, non-citizens, and the labor-intensity of the agriculture, were all associated with increases of HRI in rural locations. In urban locations, previously established risk factors for heat-related mortality, such as decreased vegetation, living in poverty, and low education attainment were associated with increases in HRI.