Approaches for identifying heat-vulnerable populations and locations: A systematic review. Academic Article uri icon


  • Heat related morbidity and mortality, especially during extreme heat events, are increasing due to climate change. More Americans die from heat than from all other natural disasters combined. Identifying the populations and locations that are under high risk of heat vulnerability is important for urban planning and design policy making as well as health interventions. An increasing number of heat vulnerability/risk models and indices (HV/R) have been developed based on indicators related to population heat susceptibility such as sociodemographic and environmental factors. The objectives of this study are to summarize and analyze current HV/R's construction, calculation, and validation, evaluate the limitation of these methods, and provide directions for future HV/R and related studies. This systematic review used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) framework and used 5 datasets for the literature search. Journal articles that developed indices or models to assess population level heat-related vulnerability or risks in the past 50years were included. A total of 52 papers were included for analysis on model construction, data sources, weighting schemes and model validation. By synthesizing the findings, we suggested: (1) include relevant and accurately measured indicators; (2) select rational weighting methods and; (3) conduct model validation. We also concluded that it is important for future heat vulnerability models and indices studies to: (1) be conducted in more tropical areas; (2) include a comprehensive understanding of energy exchanges between landscape elements and humans; and (3) be applied in urban planning and policy making practice.

published proceedings

  • Sci Total Environ

author list (cited authors)

  • Cheng, W., Li, D., Liu, Z., & Brown, R. D.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Cheng, Wenwen||Li, Dongying||Liu, Zhixin||Brown, Robert D

publication date

  • December 2021