220921 Use of Geographic Information Systems to Spatially Examine the Vulnerability of Underserved Populations to Climate Change

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lesley Joseph , Department of Civil/Environmental Engineering, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Sacoby Wilson, MS, PhD , Institute for Families in Society, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Roland Richard, PhD Candidate , Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Background: Recent studies have shown that many underserved populations live in areas that may put them at higher risks of exposure to social and environmental hazards. Climate change may exacerbate these environmental disparities. The purpose of this project is to explore the use of Geographic Information Systems to assess areas that may be vulnerable to climate change across the United States.

Methods: ArcGIS 9.3 was employed to create vulnerability scores for areas that may be impacted by climate change at the county level and census tract level in the United States, using various social, environmental, and health indicators. Data on race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status was obtained from the US Census. Data on pollution sources and levels was obtained from the EPA. Health data were obtained from the CDC. The Moran's I statistic was also used to assess any significant vulnerability clusters.

Results: The highest vulnerability scores were found for counties and census tracts in the South, particularly the Deep South, and in metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest. The lowest scores were found in parts of the Western US.

Conclusions: These findings provide insight into the areas of the country that have large populations of underserved individuals that may be vulnerable to climate change. The use of census tract data helped to improve the spatial resolution of the vulnerability maps. By adding more physical and natural hazards data, we will be able to target areas that need to adopt effective climate change related mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify areas of the United States that contain populations vulnerable to climate change. 2. Discuss social and environmental factors that may increase the vulnerability of underserved populations to climate change

Keywords: Geographic Information Systems, Vulnerable Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am studying the effects of climate change in the School of the Environment and I am doing research using Geographic Information Systems to assess vulnerability in the Institute for Families in Society.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.