Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Robert Dubrow


Extreme heat is becoming an increasingly prevalent and prominent environmental health issue under climate change. The goal of this study is to evaluate heat vulnerability at the census tract level in the state of Connecticut and assess the spatial accessibility to cooling centers – an extreme heat intervention. A variety of environmental and sociodemographic variables related to heat and health were identified based on previous literature and used in a varimax-rotated principal component analysis to reduce dimensionality and identify key components that constitute a heat vulnerability score. In addition, cooling center locations were identified based on news media and a statewide survey of cooling centers and emergency shelters. Kernel density was calculated for cooling centers, and then population density was used to calculate the cooling center-to-population ratio. Finally, the relationship between the heat vulnerability score and cooling center-to-population ratio for each census tract was quantified in a linear regression to identify high heat vulnerable census tracts with relatively low cooling center access. A heat vulnerability score was calculated for 821 of 833 census tracts in the state of Connecticut with a range of scores from 8 to 20. High vulnerability census tracts clustered in urban and metropolitan areas. A total of 248 unique cooling center locations were geocoded, with high cooling center-to-population ratio clusters found to be located around Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport. Small clusters of census tracts with a high heat vulnerability score and a low cooling center-to-population ratio were identified around Manchester, Meriden, Milford, New London, Plainville, and Stratford. Urban census tracts are key units for public health interventions pertaining to heat adaptation strategies, including cooling centers. Some urban areas have a comparatively high number of cooling centers that can provide heat relief if utilized properly in conjunction with other heat response strategies. Other urban areas can improve by increasing their number of cooling centers and by using other heat adaptation strategies to help prevent heat exposure. This heat vulnerability index can be used to inform planning and provision of adequate resources to address the needs heat vulnerable populations.


This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. It will be made publicly available on 06/01/2022