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2018
Benmarhnia, T, Alexander S, Price K, Smargiassi A, King N, Kaufman JS.  2018.  The heterogeneity of vulnerability in public health: a heat wave action plan as a case study. Critical Public Health. 28:619-625.   10.1080/09581596.2017.1322176   AbstractWebsite

The concept of vulnerability is frequently used in public health policies to develop tailored interventions or dedicate proportionately more resources to certain sub-populations. However, once segments of the population are identified as vulnerable, they are rarely consulted regarding whether this label is acceptable before instituting interventions. Instead, it is implicitly assumed that the targeted individuals identify themselves as vulnerable and experience an unambiguous and consistent need for public health assistance. In this paper, using public health interventions during heat waves as a case study, we question such assumptions. A qualitative study was conducted in Montreal, Canada involving two focus groups among populations specifically targeted by the heat action plan as vulnerable: one composed of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, and one composed of individuals who have alcohol or drug addictions. Findings revealed significant heterogeneity in the definition and experience of vulnerability as it is used in the context of a heat action plan in Montreal. We found differences between the two focus groups in several areas including sources of information they had access to within the heat action plan measures and their perspectives regarding the appropriateness of specific measures in the heat action plan. We then observed differences within each of the focus groups in several areas including their social networks relationships. The concept of vulnerability is often used in public health policies. Yet, while this concept may be convenient for shaping policies to reduce inequalities in health, the heterogeneity of populations defined as vulnerable should not be underestimated.

2017
Benmarhnia, T, Kihal-Talantikite W, Ragettli MS, Deguen S.  2017.  Small-area spatiotemporal analysis of heatwave impacts on elderly mortality in Paris: A cluster analysis approach. Science of the Total Environment. 592:288-294.   10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.03.102   AbstractWebsite

Background: Heat-waves have a substantial public health burden. Understanding spatial heterogeneity at a fine spatial scale in relation to heat and related mortality is central to target interventions towards vulnerable communities. Objectives: To determine the spatial variability of heat-wave-related mortality risk among elderly in Paris, France at the census block level. We also aimed to assess area-level social and environmental determinants of high mortality risk within Paris. Methods: We used daily mortality data from 2004 to 2009 among people aged >65 at the French census block level within Paris. We used two heat wave days' definitions that were compared to non-heat wave days. A Bernoulli cluster analysis method was applied to identify high risk clusters of mortality during heat waves. We performed random effects meta-regression analyses to investigate factors associated with the magnitude of the mortality risk. Results: The spatial approach revealed a spatial aggregation of death cases during heat wave days. We found that small scale chronic PM10 exposure was associated with a 0.02 (95% CI: 0.001; 0.045) increase of the risk of dying during a heat wave episode. We also found a positive association with the percentage of foreigners and the percentage of labor force, while the proportion of elderly people living in the neighborhoodwas negatively associated. We also found that green space density had a protective effect and inversely that the density of constructed feature increased the risk of dying during a heat wave episode. Conclusion: We showed that a spatial variation in terms of heat-related vulnerability exists within Paris and that it can be explained by some contextual factors. This study can be useful for designing interventions targeting more vulnerable areas and reduce the burden of heat waves. (C) 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.