Health Place. 2019 Nov;60:102228. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.102228. Epub 2019 Oct 22.
Heat stress causes morbidity and mortality and is increasing with climate change. Heat stress can pose particular challenges in northern regions not well adapted to heat. To assist decision makers, we identified the relative vulnerability of census tracts within Michigan to factors that increase exposure to heat stress or reflect susceptibilities in the population based on a California heat vulnerability index. In the MI-Environment assessment, we used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to combine future ensemble climate model projections to create a total of 9 geospatial and demographic variables. As part of a broader planned cumulative environmental exposure assessment, the statewide heat vulnerability index (HVI) maps display the location and relative magnitude of exposure on three metrics: built environment (Place), future expected long-term temperature averages (Temperature), and population susceptibility (People). We observed varied and distinct patterns for each of the three component indices. We assessed how equitably those exposures are distributed by racial and socioeconomic factors. This analysis showed that each of the component indices and the aggregate HVI are disproportionately distributed along racial and socioeconomic lines in Michigan. Census tracts with higher percentages of people of color had larger exposure to HVI factors with a deviation from equity of -0.115 [95% CI -0.108, -0.122]. Similarly, for census tracts with higher percentage of people experiencing poverty, the deviation from equity was -0.101 [95% CI -0.094, -0.107]. The MI-Environment visualization tool can help communities prepare for climate change and resolve inequities by identifying census tracts with the most vulnerable residents and highest potential exposures.