1.6A Hot Spots for Heat Resilience in Border Cities

Monday, 7 January 2019: 9:45 AM
North 228AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Gregg M. Garfin, The Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and S. LeRoy, P. Juarez-Carrillo, J. Vanos, A. Monteblanco, and H. Jones

Extreme heat is a risk to public health, especially in the semi-arid region along the U.S.-Mexico border. Heat risks increase with the expanding urban heat islands of border cities, and with increasing temperatures. A team of researchers, community development, and maternal health organizations partnered to address heat-related public health risks, by improving preparedness and communication about regional heat-related risks to border populations, and while learning about the vulnerabilities and capacities of neighborhoods in the region. Beginning in July 2017, the project “Hot Spots for Heat Resilience in Border Cities” developed a four-pronged approach for addressing heat-health risks: (1) learn about the relevant concerns, capacities, and needs, through discussions with community development and maternal health organizations in the El Paso, TX area, (2) develop a detailed bilingual curriculum which provides a city-specific climate and weather background, bioclimatology and heat-risk information, and risk reduction measures for heat-related health risks for border residents and expectant mothers, (3) implement health worker trainings, one-on-one discussions with community members, survey data gathering, and low-cost home heat-reduction improvement projects, and (4) exchange knowledge gained from this project with similar efforts in other border counties and communities.

In April 2018, the project team convened two trainings in El Paso, Texas, using the bilingual curriculum, for border neighborhood community health workers, known as promotoras, and maternal health professionals, such as doulas and midwives. Forty (40) health workers attended the interactive trainings, which aimed information at vulnerable populations that often lack basic public services or access to bilingual information, and expectant mothers at risk for pre-term delivery and infant mortality. Many of the participants were unaware of fundamental climate and weather exposure factors, such as the typical June peak in extreme heat, and the ways in which humidity and heat combine to increase exposure. Participants also lacked knowledge of the ways in which high temperatures and dehydration can exacerbate other health risks, such as respiratory or cardiovascular ailments, causing life-threatening situations. Health workers made initial pre-heat season in-home visits to over 200 community members. At the end of the summer 2018 heat season, they will follow up to conduct post-season interviews and to share their experiences and lessons learned with the project team, in order to improve future outreach.

As a part of a knowledge exchange with other border communities, the project team convened a virtual meeting during the summer of 2018, comprised of researchers and public health professionals in multiple communities along the U.S.-Mexico border. Participants represented each border state, and were mostly located in semi-arid communities from El Paso to San Diego. This nascent knowledge exchange network aims to continue sharing information, materials, and research insights, with a focus on fostering a community of practice, and preventing heat-related illnesses and deaths. Additional meetings are planned for late summer, and after the heat season has subsided. This project dovetails with the efforts of the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), supported by NOAA, CDC and other partners. Thus, the communication capacity building focus of this project complements efforts to improve heat-health research, the development, dissemination and use of subseasonal-to-seasonal heat risk forecasts, and the building of capacity to reduce risks and protect lives.

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