Patterns of urban heat-wave deaths and implications for prevention: Data from New York and St. Louis during July, 1966
Patterns of urban heat wave deaths in New York and St. Louis during July 1966 indicate not only the impact of environmental stress on heat-susceptible segments of the population but provide clues to the possible prevention of such deaths. While mortality from all causes increased by 36% in New York and by 56% in St. Louis certain subgroups were at substantially higher risk (persons over age 65; censustract residents with low income, crowding, or poor housing; those with hypertensive, arteriosclerotic, cardiovascular, or other circulatory disease, diabetes, or chronic respiratory disease). The oppressiveness of heat waves in cities is emphasized by increased rates of homicide and by clashes with police in the streets. On the brighter side, pediatric deaths were controlled during heat episodes in both cities, suggesting that medical, social, and environmental measures can intervene. Unless the general approach to urban heat waves becomes prospective rather than retrospective, one can anticipate episodes of excess mortality during the summers of the 1970's with a human cost of about 136 excess deaths per million per week of heat stress.