San Francisco Health Department Unveils Heat Vulnerability Index

The city's department of health has released data on overall health and climate issues affecting at-risk neighborhoods.

by Yo Yoshida / September 16, 2013

The world is getting hotter. Climate change is a reality that we can no longer ignore. We are seeing rising sea levels, habitat destruction, and unprecedented natural disasters from New Orleans’ Gulf Coast to New York’s Eastern Seaboard. But another devastating consequence of climate change is the effect rising temperatures are having on the overall health of residents in cities, especially amongst at risk neighborhoods and populations.

Last week, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, (SFDPH) released a brand new dataset that will better inform residents, and city agencies about the overall health and climate issues affecting at risk neighborhoods in San Francisco. SFDPH compiled a massive amount of data, including satellite imagery, temperature data, and other data sets based on culture, behavior, and other demographic characteristics of San Francisco’s different neighborhoods.

With all of this data, SFDPH created the San Francisco Heat Vulnerability Index. This valuable new tool will help city leaders understand which areas of San Francisco are the most at risk during an extreme heat event. By identifying these vulnerable areas with this newly available data, hopefully we’ll be able to reduce the amount of heat related illnesses like heat stroke, and heat related deaths. Especially amongst populations in San Francisco that are more at risk the others.

This heat index is just another example of what’s possible with open data. When governments make this information accessible, we can use it to predict what might happen when San Francisco is hit with its next big heat wave. And if we have this information available now, before disaster strikes, our city and its residents, equipped with this new data will be much better informed and prepared for when it matters most.

SFDPH has been a fierce advocate for open data, and the work we’ve done at Appallicious would not have been possible without their efforts. In June we partnered with SFDPH to launch our Neighborhood Score app at the US Conference of Mayors’ annual summit. The app, using data provided by SFDPH, provides an overall health and sustainability score, block-by-block for every neighborhood in the city of San Francisco.  The department’s incredible leadership and work on Open Data is creating new national standards and giving companies like Appallicious the ability to innovate and create incredibly useful tools for the residents of San Francisco.

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