Assessing the link between climate change-induced weather events, heat-related illness, and the disproportional impacts experienced by low-SES communities in Milwaukee County

Mary Elise Papke


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Exposure to extreme heat can cause a multitudeof adverse health impacts including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, andeven death. Because of the significant hazardsthat heat presents, it is important to determine thedistributionof these outcomes. Studying this distribution in Milwaukee County isespecially vital because of the stark health inequities that exist. Although difficult to measure, Milwaukee has found itself ranked among the most segregated cities in the United States for several decades. Residential segregationhasledtodisinvestment and unequal distribution of resources, resulting in ongoing structural racism,poorer health,anda general lack of preparedness for adverse environmental events.The present study attempts tocomprehensively assess the impacts of heaton Milwaukee County residents. This was performedthrough both a spatial analysis ofheat exhaustion and heat stroke incidenceand through conducting semi-structured interviews with organizational leaders to better understand the barriers that residents face. Twomain clusterswere identified through spatialanalysis: North Milwaukee, including the North Division and Sherman Park neighborhoods, and West Milwaukee, including West Allisandthesurrounding neighborhoods. Six interviews were performed andrevealedthat the most predominant barriers these communities faceinclude personal finances, built environment, individual lack of knowledge, and organizational lack of knowledge. Participants suggested various solutionson how toaddress these barriers, including infrastructureimprovements, public sector influence, collaboration with other organizations, and education and awareness strategies. Specific caveats presented by study participants should beheavilyconsidered, however, more research is required on how toimplement these programssuch that theyeffectively mitigate the risks of climate change-induced heatevents.

This projected conducted in partnership with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management and Zilber School of Public Health.

UniverCity Year Contact Info
Gavin Luter
Managing Director

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