finding 9.4 : mapping-tools-vulnerability-indices-identify-climate-health-risks

The use of geographic data and tools allows for more sophisticated mapping of risk factors and social vulnerabilities to identify and protect specific locations and groups of people [High Confidence].

This finding is from chapter 9 of The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: The chapter was developed through technical discussions of relevant evidence and expert deliberation by the report authors at several workshops, teleconferences, and email exchanges. The authors considered inputs and comments submitted by the public, the National Academies of Sciences, and Federal agencies. For additional information on the overall report process, see Appendices 23.

The author team identified a number of populations affected by climate change health impacts, including communities of color and low-income, immigrant, and limited English proficiency groups; Indigenous populations; children and pregnant women; older adults; certain occupational groups; persons with disabilities; and persons with chronic medical conditions. This list of populations was identified to reflect current understandings related to how the health of particular groups of people or particular places are affected by climate change in the United States. While not exhaustive, these populations of concern are those most commonly identified and discussed in reviews of climate change health impacts on vulnerable populations. In this chapter, the order of these populations is not prioritized. While there are other populations that may be threatened disproportionately by climate change, the authors focused the sections of this chapter on populations for which there is substantive literature. In addition to this chapter’s summary of vulnerable populations, each of the health outcome chapters in the report includes discussion of populations of concern. Some populations may be covered more extensively in these other chapters; for instance, homeless populations are discussed in Chapter 8: Mental Health, as the literature on this population focuses primarily on mental health.

Description of evidence base: Over the past decade, the literature on the use of GIS in a public health and vulnerability context has been steadily growing. Multiple studies provide strong, consistent evidence that spatial-analytic tools help facilitate analyses that link together spatially resolved representations of census data, data on the determinants of health (social, environmental, preexisting health conditions), measures of adaptive capacity (such as health care accessibility), and environmental data for the identification of at-risk populations.8dc8f888-18ac-4250-b07d-e744a46d70f2 399cfb21-5e6d-425a-98ec-55f42e32401a e905bf75-5df5-4ca7-ab70-b4a35b1219f8 0cdb219f-c600-4fbf-b4c6-2d89f77d2868 96d81a21-9659-48f1-9149-35a4d10322ca b6a2f8d3-a113-4e46-b62c-7fbaf90b4f59 Similarly, the more recent additions to the literature indicate that demographic and environmental data can be integrated to create an index that allows for analysis of the factors contributing to social vulnerability in a given geographic area.399cfb21-5e6d-425a-98ec-55f42e32401a 90ee72cf-ab21-486c-bb40-45780e31b45f Multiple studies conclude that spatial mapping that identifies factors associated with relative vulnerability is an important step in developing prevention strategies or determining where to focus or position health or emergency response resources.f48e92b8-1b15-46db-936f-249351f8c7a5 02028c63-7981-461c-8762-76105bc5ba36 a33f021d-b087-44d9-8fac-fb9507f789e8 Fewer studies explicitly focus on vulnerability mapping in a climate change context, with the notable exception of the case study of heat-related vulnerability in Georgia.399cfb21-5e6d-425a-98ec-55f42e32401a

New information and remaining uncertainties: Multiple factors, all with some degree of uncertainty, determine geographic vulnerability to the health impacts of climate change. Although the literature indicates that mapping tools and vulnerability indices are useful in characterizing geographically based exposures, geocoded health data (particularly those data relevant to an analysis of climate change vulnerability) are not always available in some locations of interest. In addition, the extent of uncertainty increases at smaller spatial scales, which is typically the scale most relevant for targeting vulnerable communities. For instance, mental health outcome data are particularly challenging to obtain and geocode, partly because the majority of cases are underdiagnosed or underreported (see Ch. 8: Mental Health).

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Based on the evidence presented in the peer-reviewed literature, there is high confidence that geographic data used in mapping tools and vulnerability indices can help to identify where and for whom climate health risks are greatest. A number of published studies provide consistent and good quality evidence to support a finding regarding the utility of mapping tools and vulnerability indices in a public health context, but methods are still emerging to support the application of these tools in the context of climate change. Overall, evidence is strong that mapping tools and vulnerability indices can help to identify at-risk locations and populations for whom climate health risks are greatest. As the state of the science continues to evolve, substantial improvements in mapping and spatial analytic tools and methodologies are expected that will allow researchers to predict, for a certain geographic area, the probability that human health impacts will occur across time.

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