Newswise – Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of severe weather events, which can endanger particularly vulnerable populations such as the elderly. researchers Mass General Brigham and colleagues examined how weather disasters affected health care and mortality among Medicare beneficiaries in affected counties between 2011 and 2016 and found that one week after major weather events, emergency department (ED) utilization and mortality continued to decline by 1 .22% and 1.4% respectively. from pre-disaster levels. Importantly, this study also found that deaths remained elevated for up to six weeks. The results will be published in Natural medicine.

researchers Massachusetts General Hospital And Brigham and Women’s Hospital, founding members of Mass General Brigham Health System, collaborated on the study. The team identified events from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and analyzed acute disasters such as floods, storms and hurricanes that caused $1 billion or more in damages. Severe storms were associated with the highest mortality rate compared to other disasters, lasting for six weeks. It found that counties with the greatest economic losses had mortality rates — and ED use — two to four times higher than all affected counties. This illustrates how the destruction of infrastructure, such as B. Power outages and transportation problems can increase both economic and health burdens.

“Taken together, these results suggest that the largest weather disasters have widespread and long-term impacts on health emergencies and deaths among Medicare beneficiaries,” said the lead author Renee Salas, MD, MS, MPH, of Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Tracking these outcomes is important to better protect patients and communities – and to strengthen our health systems.”

Authorship: Co-authors associated with Mass General Brigham include E. John Orav (BWH). Additional co-authors include Laura G. Burke, Jessica Phelan, Gregory A. Wellenius and Ashish K. Jha.

Disclosure: Salas reports no disclosures. Further information about the author is included in the article.

Financing: This research was funded by the Burke Global Health Fellowship at the Harvard Global Health Institute, the Clinician-Teacher Development Award at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Yerby Fellowship at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. A full list of funding for individual authors is included in the article.

Paper cited: Salas RN et al. “Effects of Extreme Weather Events on Health Care Utilization and Mortality in the United States.” Natural medicine DOI: 10.1038/s41591-024-02833-x.


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