Data Brief Reveals Disparities in Household Preparedness for Extreme Heat

Heat Wave Skyline

LOS ANGELES—Researchers from Heluna Health found that disparities in preparedness for extreme heat events exist among households in the western U.S.

The findings, published this week in a data brief titled, “Extreme Heat Impacts and Household Preparedness in the Western United States,” shed light on the experiences with, impact of, and preparedness for extreme heat events.

The survey found differences across race/ethnicity groups in the percentage of respondents with knowledge scores of 6 or higher on a 10-point scale for specific topics associated with extreme heat. The research identified disparities among people of color compared to non-Hispanic whites for knowing where to find information about when extreme heat will occur, how to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness and where to go if the home becomes too hot.

“We know that extreme heat can impact human health and wellbeing in a variety of ways, and that these impacts are largely preventable,” said Jo Kay Ghosh, PhD, MPH, director of research and evaluation at Heluna Health and the study’s senior author.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of adults living in the western U.S. (62%) reported experiencing an extreme heat event since 2020. Certain demographic groups, including women, non-Hispanic whites and individuals aged 65 years or older, were more likely to report experiencing extreme heat.

According to the data brief, emerging research has shown that extreme heat increases negative health outcomes, especially for people with chronic conditions and pregnant individuals, and among certain other populations, including children, older adults and individuals with low socioeconomic status. Extreme heat has also been shown to have negative impacts on mental health. 

“The findings underscore the need for targeted interventions to mitigate the health consequences of extreme heat, particularly among vulnerable populations,” Ghosh said.

Ghosh, along with co-authors BibianaMartinez, PhD, MPH, and Annika Helverson, PhD, conducted the research, based on an online panel survey of more than 1,700 adults living in the western U.S.

Other findings highlighted in the data brief include:

  • Among adults who had experienced extreme heat, 62% rated the degree of overall impact on their lives as a score of ‘6 or higher’ on a 10-point scale (“increased impact”). Higher proportions of younger people (ages 18-29) reported increased impacts from extreme heat, compared to older age groups.
  • The survey revealed impacts on physical activity, mood, physical health and personal finances due to extreme heat.
  • While overall self-rated preparedness was high, disparities existed, with people of color reporting lower preparedness and facing increased barriers.
  • Past preparedness was positively associated with current preparedness, suggesting the importance of supporting community preparedness efforts.

Blayne Cutler, MD, PhD, president and CEO of Heluna Health, said, “As extreme heat events become more frequent, it is essential to prioritize public health initiatives that support preparedness and resilience, particularly among underserved populations.”

Cutler said she hopes this data brief serves as a resource for policymakers, public health officials and community leaders working to enhance preparedness and reduce the health impacts of extreme heat.

To view the full data brief, click here.

For more than 50 years, Heluna Health has collaborated with nonprofit and community-based organizations, public health agencies, healthcare systems, providers, and policymakers to enhance public health interventions and ensure equitable access to disease prevention, treatment, care and social resources. Heluna Health is at the forefront of efforts to eliminate health disparities among vulnerable populations, dedicating itself to culturally congruent, community-led interventions aimed at systemic change and improved health outcomes across all communities they serve.