Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

East Tennessee Assesses Heat-Related Mortality Risks among Rural Populations

Mr. Emmanuel Odame, doctoral student in the department of environmental health at the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, has published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  The article, “Assessing Heat-Related Mortality Risks among Rural Populations: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Epidemiological Evidence,” systematically reviewed the current literature for assessing heat-related mortality risk among rural populations.  Relevant rural studies from various geographical locations with similar temperature metrics, study designs and health outcomes were used in this study.

Drs. Ying Li and Ken Silver of the department of environmental health and Dr. Shimin Zheng of the department of biostatistics and epidemiology, along with Dr. Ambarish Vaidyanathan of the National Center for Environmental Health, co-authored the publication.

Most epidemiological studies of high temperature effects on mortality have focused on urban settings, while heat-related health risks in rural areas remain underexplored. Despite the fact that rural locations are often cooler than urban centers, rural areas may be distinctly disadvantaged in factors that increase population vulnerability to extreme weather, such as social isolation, access to health care and air conditioning, and baseline health status, with some factors being markedly worse in less developed regions.  To date there has been no meta-analysis of epidemiologic literature concerning heat-related mortality in rural settings.

To be able to formulate comprehensive heat-health action plans, it is imperative that we assess heat-related health risks in rural areas ; however, conducting risk assessments for rural settings can be challenging. Most rural areas, especially in underdeveloped countries, lack meteorological data due to a paucity of weather monitoring stations.

The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search using PubMed, Web of Science, and Google Scholar to identify articles published up to April 2018. Their results indicated evidence of heat vulnerability in rural areas. They estimated a 3 percent excess in all-cause mortality and an 11 percent excess in cardiovascular mortality to be associated with a 1 °C increase in mean ambient temperature.

The combined risk of excess heat-related mortality in rural populations does not appear to be smaller than those reported in urban populations, suggesting that being a rural resident does not make an individual less vulnerable to heat. The study also found that the excess mortality risk was roughly 1.8 times higher among the developing nations than the developed nations included in the meta-analysis.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed open access journal that covers environmental sciences and engineering, public health, environmental health, occupational hygiene, health economics and global health research.