Health Disparities and Climate Change

        The Effects of Climate Change on Geographical and Racial Disparities in Potentially Preventable Hospitalizations in South Carolina.

Dr. Dayna Campbell



The impact of climate change on human health has received considerable attention. In the United States, the elderly, children and racial minorities have increased mortality rates during the summer months when high temperatures and extreme weather events are frequent. The purpose of this study is to examine geographical trends in potentially avoidable hospitalizations due to temperature related illness in the Midlands area of South Carolina.



Temperature and humidity data were obtained from the National Climatic Data Center, for every day in the summers of 2001- 2007. Computerized inpatient hospitalization discharge and ER visit data for Richland and Lexington Counties were obtained from the SC Office of Research and Statistics for the Columbia area for this time period.


Primary diagnoses were analyzed alone to evaluate the reasons for admission during the study period with a focus on heat stress and related illnesses. Primary and secondary conditions were analyzed to determine additional diagnoses and underlying medical conditions present at the time of admission and treatment. Statistical methods were used to assess the relationships between the heat index and potentially avoidable hospitalizations across census tract locations, race/ethnicity, age, primary and secondary diagnoses, and insurance status.



The results suggest that there are higher admission rates and ER visits for non-whites, elderly, residents who live in low SES census tracts, and co-morbid populations in comparison to their counterparts for heat-related illnesses. The authors believe that these results will have implications for how to protect vulnerable populations during average and above average heat events in South Carolina.


        Climate Change and Its Health Implications for African-Americans and Low-Income Communities: A Review

Lesley Joseph


Extensive research has shown that African-Americans and other low-income populations have experienced profound disparities in health and well-being due to global climate change. Being concentrated in many urban and rural areas, these populations are subjected to various forms of environmental injustices, which serve to enhance the already damaging effects of climate change. African-Americans, as well as other minority and low-income communities, live in very high-density urban areas, which greatly increase the degree to which their overall health is susceptible to the ever-changing environment. Higher temperatures, less access to proper nutrition, and rampant air and water pollution are just some of the factors that have negative impacts on the health of these urban communities. The combination of global climate change and the litany of environmental justice issues, such as a lack of basic amenities (e.g. sewage and wastewater treatment), also present a dire public health situation for these populations. The purpose of this presentation is to provide a thorough assessment of the public health issues facing the African-American and low-income communities and how they are impacted by global climate change.


In preparing this presentation, I will conduct a thorough literature review using the most prominent health and scientific search engines, such as CINAHL Plus, Medline (EBSCO), and Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. I have identified certain key terms to help facilitate the literature review: climate change, public health, health disparities, and environmental justice. Using the gathered literature, I will discuss the prevailing public health issues associated with climate change and the degree to which they affect low-income populations and people of color. I will also survey several community activists and local college professors to enhance my ability to examine the environmental justice issues that greatly contribute to the growing health disparities of these communities.