Heat stress illness hospitalizations — Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, 20 States, 2001–2010
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Heat stress illness hospitalizations — Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, 20 States, 2001–2010

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      Problem/Condition: Heat stress illness (HSI), also known as heat-related illness, comprises mild heat edema, heat syncope, heat cramps, heat exhaustion (the most common type of HSI), and heat stroke (the most severe form). CDC's Environmental Public Health Tracking Program receives annual hospitalization discharge data from 23 states that are used to assess and monitor trends of HSI hospitalization over time.

      Reporting Period: May–September, 2001–2010.

      Description of System: The Environmental Public Health Tracking Program is a comprehensive surveillance system implemented in 25 states and one city health department. The core of the system is the Tracking Network, which collects data on environmental hazards, health effects, exposures, and population. The Tracking Network provides nationally consistent environmental and health outcome data that enable federal, state, and local public health agencies to assess trends, explore associations, and generate hypotheses using these data. For HSI surveillance, the Tracking Network uses state-based hospital discharge data.

      Results: During 2001–2010, approximately 28,000 HSI hospitalizations occurred in 20 states participating in the Tracking Program. Data from three states were not included in this report because of missing data for ≥3 years. Two states joined the Tracking Program after the study period and also are not included in this report. The majority of HSI hospitalizations occurred among males and persons aged ≥65 years. The highest rates of hospitalizations were in the Midwest and the South. During this period, an overall 2%–5% increase in the rate of HSI hospitalizations occurred in all 20 states compared with the 2001 rate. The correlation between the average number of HSI hospitalizations and the average monthly maximum temperature/heat index was statistically significant (at p<0.0001) in all 20 states.

      Interpretation: Consistent with previous studies, age and sex were identified as major risk factors for HSI hospitalizations. Certain Tracking states that experienced high temperatures during summer months showed an increase in rate of HSI hospitalizations over the 10-year study period.

      Public Health Action: HSIs are preventable and an important focus of public health interventions at state and local health departments. Federal, state, and local public health agencies can use data on HSI hospitalizations for surveillance purposes to estimate trends over time and to design targeted intervention to reduce heat stress morbidity among at-risk populations.

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