Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Rural Interventions
Unsplash/Joel Heard

Rural Interventions

The Heat Policy Innovation Hub is addressing the critical gap in attention toward how extreme heat affects individuals and communities in rural areas.

While the impacts of extreme heat are often framed for an urban context, rural regions, particularly in the Southern United States, experience higher rates of heat-related illnesses.

Rural communities face unique challenges when it comes to extreme heat:

  • Occupational heat exposure: Many rural residents are engaged in agricultural work under the scorching sun or work in manufacturing environments that can also expose them to high heat levels, escalating their risk of heat-related health issues.
  • Energy poverty and inefficient housing: Rural communities often grapple with energy poverty, restricting their access to reliable cooling systems. This issue, compounded by inefficient and aged housing, magnifies the impact of extreme heat indoors.
  • Lack of access to medical care: Increasing rates of rural health facility closures have exacerbated the vulnerability of people who live in rural areas. These closures make it harder for people to manage chronic conditions and to receive care during periods of crisis.
  • Limitations on solution for heat mitigation: A focus on heat mitigation strategies specific to urban areas has resulted in the under-prioritization of solutions tailored for rural areas. Some solutions feasible for urban areas—such as cooling centers—cannot be effectively implemented in rural areas, given differences in population density and the robustness of community lifelines.

The Heat Policy Innovation Hub is advancing research, engagement with faith-based and civic organizations, policy innovation, and meaningful partnerships to protect the health and enhance the resilience of these often overlooked, vulnerable communities.

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