Environ Health. 2019 Apr 27;18(1):40. doi: 10.1186/s12940-019-0483-5.
BACKGROUND: Extreme heat (EH) and extreme precipitation (EP) events are expected to increase with climate change in many parts of the world. Characterizing the potential future morbidity and mortality burden of EH and EP and associated costs, as well as uncertainties in the estimates, can identify areas for public health intervention and inform adaptation strategies. We demonstrate a burden of disease and uncertainty assessment using data from Michigan, USA, and provide approaches for deriving these estimates for locations lacking certain data inputs.
METHODS: Case-crossover analysis adapted from previous Michigan-specific modeling was used to characterize the historical EH-mortality relationship by county poverty rate and age group. Historical EH-associated hospitalization and emergency room visit risks from the literature were adapted to Michigan. In the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s BenMAP software, we used a novel approach, with multiple spatially-varying exposures, to estimate all non-accidental mortality and morbidity occurring on EH days (EH days; days where maximum temperature 32.2-35 C or > 35 C) and EP days. We did so for two time periods: the “historical” period (1971-2000), and the “projected” period (2041-2070), by county.
RESULTS: The rate of all non-accidental mortality associated with EH days increased from 0.46/100,000 persons historically to 2.9/100,000 in the projected period, for 240 EH-attributable deaths annually. EH-associated ED visits increased from 12/100,000 persons to 68/100,000 persons, for 7800 EH-attributable emergency department visits. EP-associated ED visits increased minimally from 1.7 to 1.9/100,000 persons. Mortality and morbidity were highest among those aged 65+ (91% of all deaths). Projected health costs are dominated by EH-associated mortality ($280 million) and EH-associated emergency department visits ($14 million). A variety of sources contribute to a moderate-to-high degree of uncertainty around the point estimates, including uncertainty in the magnitude of climate change, population composition, baseline health rates, and exposure-response estimates.
CONCLUSIONS: The approach applied here showed that health burden due to climate may significantly rise for all Michigan counties by midcentury. The costs to health care and uncertainties in the estimates, given the potential for substantial attributable burden, provide additional information to guide adaptation measures for EH and EP.