Accelerating Efforts to Beat the Heat Using Science and Stories

Jul 13, 2021 | Guest Author

This guest post was written by Marc Coudert from the Office of Sustainability at the City of Austin.

Rising temperatures across the globe is a consequence of climate change, and Austin, Texas, is no exception. By the mid-21st century, average annual temperatures in Austin are projected to rise about 2.7° F, and the number of days reaching at least 100° F will increase by 34 days annually. Already, though, high heat is having an impact on the health and well-being of Austinites: a report from Austin Public Health showed that in 2018, approximately 819 heat-related illnesses were recorded, along with four heat-related deaths. The heat is also affecting people’s ability to engage in health-promoting activities– approximately 70% of Austinites report that high temperatures prevent them from riding their bicycles.

To protect the communities and individuals from the health impacts of heat, the City of Austin is prioritizing heat mitigation efforts. Like most cities, lack of tree canopy cover and an abundance of imperious surfaces contribute to higher temperatures throughout Austin, which can be visualized through this Urban Heat Island Map. The City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability leads efforts to achieve a climate resilient and adaptive city, and was interested in understanding how they could address the issue of heat in an equitable manner.

Photo by Mose Buchele

The City partnered with the University of Texas to create maps using data on climate indicators (including heat) and social vulnerability within the city. These maps helped identify areas that are disproportionately exposed to heat, and communities that are both more sensitive to heat and less able to respond and recover. Though this satellite data was insightful, the City of Austin wanted to understand what was happening on the ground using street-level data. To collect this, Austin’s citizen science members volunteered to drive around the City with heat sensors on their vehicles at different times throughout the day. Using this hyper-local data, maps of community assets, and social vulnerability index data, Austin would then be able to pinpoint future investment opportunities to ensure equitable distribution of heat mitigators.

In addition to the community members collecting lived experience, additional stakeholders in this process of determining best approaches to heat mitigation in Austin include three community organizers, four departments from the University of Texas at Austin, and over seven city departments. The City of Austin plans to pair the quantitative data that was collected with stories and input from community members to better understand how heat in Austin is affecting health, wellbeing, and access to locations such as schools, churches, bus stops, etc. In collaboration with community organizers and university faculty, the city is paying community members to provide stories of how heat impacts their daily activities. In turn, the city will work with all stakeholders to mitigate community heat by planting trees, install bus shelters, add new crosswalks, and other possible strategies provided by community members.


NACCHO logo small version02 square N pms321

About Guest Author

NACCHO periodically invites guest authors to write first-person accounts of their work in public health. To submit your own story for consideration, please visit our form.

More posts by Guest Author

Related Posts

Heat
  • Climate Change
  • Opportunity

Now Open: 2023 Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign...

Applications due December 16.

Nov 17, 2022 | Beth Hess

Now Open: 2023 Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign...

Webinar
  • Webinar

Food Safety Sharing Session Recap: Microenterprise Home...

Recap of the November 4, 2022, sharing session

Nov 14, 2022 | Anu Varma

Food Safety Sharing Session Recap: Microenterprise Home...

  • Food Safety & Inspection
  • Opportunity

Response Requested: FDA Survey Seeks to Gather...

NACCHO requests local health staff feedback to inform the development of the...

Oct 27, 2022 | Anu Varma

Response Requested: FDA Survey Seeks to Gather...

  • Webinar

MAHC Network Webinar: Interim Guidance for Safe...

Learn more about artificial swimming lagoons, and how they can be operated to...

Oct 21, 2022 | Anu Varma

MAHC Network Webinar: Interim Guidance for Safe...

I Stock 1221860749
  • Funding Opportunity
  • Climate Change

Request for Applications: Climate and Health...

NACCHO, with support from the Climate and Health Program at the CDC, intends to...

Oct 20, 2022 | Angana Roy

Request for Applications: Climate and Health...

CEH Day logo No Date
  • Climate Change
  • Hazards & Health Effects
  • Maternal, Child, & Adolescent Health

Celebrate Children’s Environmental Health Day (CEH Day)...

NACCHO is an official partner of CEH Day 2022 celebrations.

Oct 13, 2022 | Anu Varma

Celebrate Children’s Environmental Health Day (CEH Day)...

Nominations Open for the American Climate Leadership...

ecoAmerica is awarding a share of $175,000 for their American Climate...

Oct 11, 2022

Nominations Open for the American Climate Leadership...

APPLETREE Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO)

CDC’s ATSDR has announced a new notice of funding opportunity targeted towards...

Oct 06, 2022 | Charlotte Ciampa

APPLETREE Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO)

CDC’s ATSDR Released PFAS Exposure Assessment Final...

See the final report summarizing the findings of PFAS exposure assessments from...

Oct 06, 2022

CDC’s ATSDR Released PFAS Exposure Assessment Final...

Back to Top