IMPROVING HEALTH AND RESILIENCE TO WILDFIRE RISKS AMONG VULNERABLE GROUPS
Climate-related environmental hazards such as pollution, severe weather, and natural disasters pose significant risks to human health and well-being. Public policies, regulations, and innovation serve critical roles in avoiding or reducing the health harms of environmental hazards. Yet, much remains unknown about the impacts of these hazards, the factors that mediate impacts, and which populations are the most vulnerable. Advancing scientific knowledge in this area is critical for designing effective policies and fueling innovative solutions to improve health and resilience to environmental risks, especially among vulnerable groups.
Professor Molitor’s new project will address these issues in the context of a major and growing environmental risk: wildfires. Wildfires have been increasing in frequency and severity in many parts of the world, including the US. During his CAS appointment, Professor Molitor will focus on two primary dimensions of wildfire risk: air pollution from drifting wildfire smoke plumes and disruptions caused by preemptively shutting off electricity in communities at risk of fire. Considering each risk in turn, the project has three specific aims. The first is to assess health impacts by leveraging large administrative datasets that contain individual-level measures of health and health care use, including mortality and hospitalization. The second is to identify which groups of individuals are the most vulnerable to wildfire risks by using the detailed health data in concert with recent advances in machine learning. And finally, this project aims to identify ways to increase population health resiliency to wildfire risks by examining how individual and community characteristics can mitigate harmful impacts.