With climate change and global warming setting record temperatures across the globe, researchers have set out to learn how increasingly hot weather is impacting different groups of people. What they discovered is that heat played a stronger role in ER visits among racial minority children and low-income children.

In a comprehensive study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers explored the relationship between warm seasons and emergency department visits to U.S. children’s hospitals.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Aaron Bernstein, said, “We find that heat magnifies the inequities that we have seen in other arenas, which has not before been shown (in children).”

The correlation between kids of color and ER visits for heat-related incidents could be tied to a few different things.

For one, there are areas known as heat islands that are several degrees hotter than the surrounding areas and are more likely to house Black and brown populations. According to Yahoo!, children’s health and climate change expert Dr. Lisa Patel said she regularly sees children come into the hospital from urban heat islands.

She said, “The kids in these neighborhoods that tend to be Black and brown children are going to be in places that are literally going to be hotter on those days. Kids that are coming in to me with various health care ailments as a result of climate change tend to be my families that are either experiencing poverty, housing insecurity, and/or are children who are Black and brown.”

There are also large populations of people of color living and working in agriculture, like throughout California. Temperatures can be sweltering and many are left without air conditioning or anywhere to cool down.

The impact that climate change is having on minority populations is so profound, there’s been a recent push for climate change education to be integrated into the board certification for pediatricians.  The American Board of Pediatrics has already launched its first education module on climate change, with the potential for more education on the subject to be added in the future.

Dr. Bernstein summed things up, saying:

“We are not going to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in closing health disparities if we do not address the risks from heat.” It’s now clear that the two issues go hand-in-hand.

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