How heat makes health inequity worse, hitting people with risks like diabetes harder

Extreme heat exacerbates health inequity in the U.S., particularly affecting individuals with conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Health Impact: Extreme heat waves disproportionately affect individuals with common conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
* Cardiovascular conditions appear to be the leading cause of deaths related to extreme heat.
* Heat can be particularly dangerous for those who take common medications for heart disease, as these can impair the body’s response to heat exposure.

Layered Risks: Heat is a particular risk for elderly populations, communities of color, and people with lower socioeconomic status—groups already at higher risk for numerous health issues.
* These communities often have fewer resources to cope with the heat and higher rates of diseases that make heat more dangerous.
* These populations are concentrated in the Deep South and Midwest, areas already known as the “stroke belt” due to high rates of stroke.

Solutions and Challenges: Efforts to mitigate these health risks include increasing shaded areas and making changes to roofing materials to reflect heat.
* Accessibility and awareness of cooling centers are issues of concern, particularly for those who are physically impaired or lack transportation options.
* While such changes could be implemented in two to three years with proper funding, some believe that businesses might be incentivized to lead efforts as extreme heat also impacts productivity.

Quote: “Eventually, I suspect businesses and employers will do the math and see that the payoff in terms of lost productivity more than outweighs the upfront expenses of retooling their infrastructure to deal with extreme heat,” says Steven Woolf, director emeritus at the Center for Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University.

View original article on NPR

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