New Maricopa County Public Health Reports: 2023 Heat Death Surveillance & Evaluating Cooling Center Effectiveness

Maricopa County Department of Public Health published 2 reports last week regarding last summer’s tragic heat deaths.

Their preliminary report of heat-related deaths in 2023 found a record- breaking 645 heat-associated deaths last summer. That total breaks the previous year’s total by over 50%. The persons most affected are folks experiencing homelessness.

Their evaluation of the effectiveness of a cooling centers investigated what brought people to cooling centers and the barriers that kept people from using them. Among those findings:

  • Most visitors to cooling centers had been to one previously and spent at least an hour during each visit for heat relief
  • Word of mouth and street signs were suggested as the top two ways to inform people of where cooling centers are located
  • The biggest barriers to using cooling centers are:
    • Not knowing they exist
    • Lack of transportation to cooling centers
    • Not knowing where cooling centers are located

Based on this information, MCDPH is working to address these needs with cities and community partners like:

  • Supporting a bilingual heat relief call center to answer calls and connect people to resources and transportation to and from cooling centers
  • Partnering with City of Phoenix to create signs for all Maricopa County heat relief locations to make them visible from the street
  • Working with cities and community organizations that have experience running cooling centers to expand hours and days of operation, ensuring water and snacks will be available
  • Ordering heat relief items like reusable water bottles, cooling towels, and hats to distribute at smaller community cooling centers, which may not be able to afford those supplies on their own

For a timeline of the Heat Relief Network’s 2024 activities and more details on donations, visit https://azmag.gov/Programs/Heat-Relief-Network.

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