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Your Environment. Your Health.

Colorado State University

Investigating Health Effects of Climate-Related Disasters in the United States

Brooke Anderson, Ph.D.

NIEHS Grant: R00ES022631

Despite the frequency of climate-related natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, floods), little is known about how such disasters affect all-cause human mortality and morbidity. Research identifying health risks for all-cause mortality and morbidity, including cardiovascular and respiratory risks, would inform disaster planning and response. Furthermore, climate change is likely to change patterns of climate-related disasters, making it critical to understand health risks associated with current climate-related disasters to fully understand health risks associated with future climate change. However, research on the effects of disasters on all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality and morbidity is difficult to conduct with current disaster epidemiology methods. Most disaster epidemiology either focuses on quickly identifying the health risks associated with a single disaster as part of disaster response or investigates only health outcomes classified by a medical examiner as "disaster-related".

During the training phase of this grant, Dr. Anderson will develop statistical methods to investigate the effects of climate-related disasters on all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory health outcomes by combining current methods and concepts from two types of analysis: episode analysis and environmental time series analysis (Aim 1). During the independent phase of the grant, she will apply these methods to quantify effects of cyclonic storms (hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions) on all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality and Medicare hospitalizations in the United States (Aim 2). For this analysis, she will link national datasets of daily health data from the National Center for Health Statistics and Medicare billing with storm data from the National Climatic Data Center's Storm Data and the University of South Carolina's Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database, to conduct a multi-year, multi-community analysis of the health effects of cyclonic storms.

She will also determine how the health risks of cyclonic storms are modified by the infrastructure damage caused by each storm (Aim 3). To do this, she will work with a co-mentor who models infrastructure risks associated with climate-related disasters, and use these models of infrastructure risk and data from utility companies and state departments of transportation to quantify how the health risk associated with a storm modifies its effects on all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory morbidity and Medicare hospitalizations. The proposed research and training will allow Dr. Anderson to establish an independent career as a leader in the epidemiology of climate-related natural disasters.

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