Awareness, Risk Perception, and Protective Behaviors for Extreme Heat and Climate Change in New York City

Published in: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Volume 15, Number 7 (July 2018). doi: 10.3390/ijerph15071433

Posted on RAND.org on April 30, 2020

by Jaime Madrigano, Kathryn Lane, Nada Petrovic, Munerah Ahmed, Micheline Blum, Thomas Matte

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Preventing heat-related illness and death requires an understanding of who is at risk and why, and options for intervention. We sought to understand the drivers of socioeconomic disparities in heat-related vulnerability in New York City (NYC), the perceived risk of heat exposure and climate change, and barriers to protective behaviors. A random digit dial telephone survey of 801 NYC adults aged 18 and older was conducted from 22 September–1 October, 2015. Thirteen percent of the population did not possess an air conditioner (AC), and another 15% used AC never/infrequently. In adjusted models, odds of not possessing AC were greater for non-Hispanic blacks compared with other races/ethnicities, odds ratio (OR) = 2.0 (95% CI: 1.1, 3.5), and for those with low annual household income, OR = 3.1 (95% CI: 1.8, 5.5). Only 12% reported going to a public place with AC if they could not keep cool at home. While low-income individuals were less likely to be aware of heat warnings, they were more likely to be concerned that heat could make them ill and that climate change would affect their health than participants with a higher household income, OR = 1.6 (95% CI: 1.0, 2.3). In NYC, lack of access to AC partially explains disparities in heat-related health outcomes. Our results point to opportunities for knowledge building and engagement on heat-health awareness and climate change adaptation that can be applied in NYC and other metropolitan areas to improve and target public health prevention efforts.

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