Data Brief Provides Insights Into Heat-Related Emergency Department Visits
Emergency Department Visits for Diagnoses Directly Indicating Heat Exposure: Variation Across Counties in the United States, a first-time data analysis by AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, showed that emergency department (ED) visits due to extreme heat exposure varied widely among States in 2019.
Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri had the highest population rates of ED visits due to heat exposure. The States with the lowest rates were Alaska, Wyoming, New York, Montana, and Colorado. Similarly, researchers noted variations in county-specific rates of heat-related ED visits. Rural counties were more likely to have higher rates of ED visits related to heat exposure—a finding that challenges assumptions that health problems related to extreme heat are most acute in urban areas. Rural counties were more likely to have higher rates of ED visits related to heat exposure than large metropolitan counties (31.5 vs. 8.4 percent, respectively). The analysis, which recognizes that heat waves are expected to become more frequent and severe due to climate change, may inform prevention strategies, such as heat alert protocols, changes to built environments, and public education programs.