As part of a public health response to severe heat waves in the midwestern and northeastern United States in the summer of 1999, we actively solicited the number of heat-related deaths from 38 medical examiner and coroner (ME/C) jurisdictions comprising 35 metropolitan areas to enumerate heat-related deaths in areas affected by heat waves. We also determined the usefulness of these data for surveillance and rapid investigation of heat-related deaths by asking the ME/C offices about investigational protocols and case definitions used for suspected heat-related deaths. A total of 334 heat-related deaths were reported during the study period of July 1 - August 31. Minor changes in data collection and diagnostic criteria in some ME/C jurisdictions would allow for greater comparability among jurisdictions. The National Association of Medical Examiners' position paper on heat-related mortality diagnosis provides important guidance to ME/Cs regarding the certification of heat-related deaths and may require some refinement to address certain issues. Among these are certifying manner of death and classifying potential causes of heat-related death not involving hyperthermia or heat stroke but where heat is a potential contributing factor to death. Many heat-related deaths are preventable, and most deaths certified as heat-related are investigated by ME/Cs. Therefore, ME/Cs are an important resource for heat-related mortality research, and improvements in data collection and reporting could yield tremendous benefits to our understanding of and interventions for heat-related deaths.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant in this session will be able to: 1.Describe the role of medical examiners and coroners in surveillance for specific types of deaths such as heat-related mortality. 2. Discuss the issues involved in the diagnosis of heat-related deaths, and the next steps to be taken to improve the timely response to heat-related deaths. 3. Describe the benefits of improved reporting of heat-related mortality.
Keywords: Mortality, Surveillance
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None, except for the National Association of Medical Examiners position paper on the diagnosis of heat-related death.
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
The 129th Annual Meeting of APHA