A year after five nursing students in the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University developed an online story map examining the impacts of extreme heat in Las Cruces, the project was presented this month at a mapping software conference in San Diego.
A collaboration between NMSU’s School of Nursing and the city of Las Cruces’ Sustainability Office and Senior Programs, the ‘Extreme Heat’ story map was created with ESRI Survey 123 survey tool and ArcGIS mapping software, giving users an interactive look at the health effects of extreme heat in Las Cruces, while serving as a free resource for information on how to stay safe – and cool – during hot summer months.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 618 people in the United States die every year from extreme heat. In a three-month outlook forecast, the National Weather Service predicts temperatures for most of New Mexico will remain above average by 40 to 50 percent through September.
Completed during the spring semester in 2017, the story map was the result of a 10-week, community health project spearheaded by five NMSU nursing students – Bailee Cline, Amber Harrell, Fatima Perez, Grace Perkins and Kaitlyn Wedman – all of whom have since graduated, said Randee Greenwald, a college assistant professor in the School of Nursing, who served as the lead instructor for the project.
“The story map allowed nursing students to explore the impact of the social determinants of health, interact with community members at risk for heat-related problems, and provide information and education to the public,” Greenwald said.
Miriam Maske, a multimedia specialist and technology coordinator in the School of Nursing, also assisted in the project and presented the map at the 2018 ESRI Education Summit in San Diego July 10. The California-based ESRI is an international supplier of GIS, the program used to create the story map.
“Academia and community partnerships play a crucial role in working together to gather and map data that impact members of their community and beyond,” Maske said. “The ESRI Summit allowed me to see the crucial role nursing plays in identifying community health issues and trends that impact at-risk populations.”
The map used data from the U.S. Census Bureau combined with a survey the students modified with input from the city of Las Cruces Sustainability Office, Greenwald said. Feedback from the pilot-tested questions was then provided to the city for future use. Students surveyed senior citizens and homeless residents in Las Cruces, using the Survey 123 iOS app on an iPad.
Populations most vulnerable to extreme heat include children 5 years old and younger, adults 65 years old and older and the homeless.
More than a third of the 60 individuals who participated in the survey reported that they or someone else in their household were affected by extreme heat. Eighteen participants indicated that they or a household member had to leave their household for another place to keep cool because of heat-related weather. These places included community centers, shopping centers and libraries.
The map also features locations of public spaces that the city of Las Cruces designates as cooling stations when temperatures exceed 100 degrees. These emergency stations also may be made available during times of extreme cold weather. Map users also are able to download pamphlets in English and Spanish that contain detailed information from the CDC on identifying heat-related illness.
Author: Carlos Andres Lopez – NMSU