6.4 A Triangulated Evaluation of Cooling Center Effectiveness for Protecting Public Health in Yuma, Arizona

Tuesday, 14 January 2020: 3:30 PM
153B (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
David M. Hondula, Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ; and M. C. Roach, L. Harlow-Smith, H. Putnam, A. X. Andresen, M. Orta, C. Tirdea, and K. Snyder

Demand continues to grow for information regarding the effectiveness of public health interventions for reducing the adverse impacts of extreme heat and heat waves. Public health entities and partners across the country are responding to this call as participants in the CDC’s Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative. In Arizona, the state health department has partnered with three county health departments to evaluate the effectiveness of three particular intervention strategies. This presentation will feature results from an evaluation of the emerging and expanding network of cooling centers in Yuma, Arizona, one of the hottest communities in the United States. The evaluation was conducted as a partnership between the state health department, the Yuma County Health Services District, and Arizona State University.

The project team used three distinct tools to evaluate knowledge of and access to cooling centers, community needs related to heat more generally, and the functioning and operation of cooling centers. In summer 2018, the team conducted in-person intercept surveys with predominantly homeless individuals in outdoor locations throughout Yuma. These surveys were followed by in-person interviews of managers of cooling centers that participate in the regional network. In summer 2019, survey efforts shifted to focus on elderly residents of the county, and responses were collected at community events and through social media recruitment.

Survey results indicate that vulnerable residents of Yuma County access a wide range of public facilities to seek relief from summer heat, some of which are members of the cooling center network. Familiarity with the term “cooling center,” and the specific roles and functions of those centers, was inconsistent. Similar to previous studies, the surveys revealed that the majority of individuals who visit cooling centers are primarily there for purposes other than heat relief. Informal cooling centers, such as rivers, parks, libraries, and stores, appear to play a significant role in providing respite from summer heat, and new partnerships focusing on those localities could improve the reach of public health services related to heat. Beyond cooling centers, this project has collected additional baseline data related to community risk perception, health impacts, and familiarity with other heat relief resources that will provide valuable points of comparison as additional interventions are deployed and improved in Yuma County in the future.

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