Mixed methods assessment of personal heat exposure, sleep, physical activity, and heat adaptation strategies among urban residents in the Boston area, MA

Author: Chad W. Milando et al.

Year: 2022

Published in: BMC Public Health

The growing frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat events necessitates interventions to reduce heat exposures. Local opportunities for heat adaptation may be optimally identified through collection of both quantitative exposure metrics and qualitative data on perceptions of heat. In this study, we used mixed methods to characterize heat exposure among urban residents in the area of Boston, Massachusetts, US, in summer 2020. Repeated interviews of N = 24 study participants ascertained heat vulnerability and adaptation strategies. Participants also used low-cost sensors to collect temperature, location, sleep, and physical activity data. We saw significant differences across temperature metrics: median personal temperature exposures were 3.9 °C higher than median ambient weather station temperatures. Existing air conditioning (AC) units did not adequately control indoor temperatures to desired thermostat levels: even with AC use, indoor maximum temperatures increased by 0.24 °C per °C of maximum outdoor temperature. Sleep duration was not associated with indoor or outdoor temperature. On warmer days, we observed a range of changes in time-at-home, expected given our small study size. Interview results further indicated opportunities for heat adaptation interventions including AC upgrades, hydration education campaigns, and amelioration of energy costs during high heat periods. Our mixed methods design informs heat adaptation interventions tailored to the challenges faced by residents in the study area. The strength of our community-academic partnership was a large part of the success of the mixed methods approach.