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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(12), 15352-15365; doi:10.3390/ijerph121214988

Differential Effects of Temperature Extremes on Hospital Admission Rates for Respiratory Disease between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory

1
Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
2
ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
3
Centre for Health Research, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, Sydney 2150, Australia
4
Public Health Association of Australia, Canberra 2605, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jan C. Semenza
Received: 16 October 2015 / Revised: 16 November 2015 / Accepted: 1 December 2015 / Published: 3 December 2015
(This article belongs to the Collection Climate Change and Human Health)
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Abstract

The health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians may be exacerbated by climate change if temperature extremes have disproportionate adverse effects on Indigenous people. To explore this issue, we analysed the effect of temperature extremes on hospital admissions for respiratory diseases, stratified by age, Indigenous status and sex, for people living in two different climates zones in the Northern Territory during the period 1993–2011. We examined admissions for both acute and chronic respiratory diagnoses, controlling for day of the week and seasonality variables. Our analysis showed that: (1) overall, Indigenous hospital admission rates far exceeded non-Indigenous admission rates for acute and chronic diagnoses, and Top End climate zone admission rates exceeded Central Australia climate zone admission rates; (2) extreme cold and hot temperatures were associated with inconsistent changes in admission rates for acute respiratory disease in Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and older adults; and (3) no response to cold or hot temperature extremes was found for chronic respiratory diagnoses. These findings support our two hypotheses, that extreme hot and cold temperatures have a different effect on hospitalisations for respiratory disease between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and that these health risks vary between the different climate zones. We did not, however, find that there were differing responses to temperature extremes in the two populations, suggesting that any increased vulnerability to climate change in the Indigenous population of the Northern Territory arises from an increased underlying risk to respiratory disease and an already greater existing health burden. View Full-Text
Keywords: indigenous health; temperature extremes; respiratory health; climate zones; Aboriginal Australia; disproportionate impacts; climate change indigenous health; temperature extremes; respiratory health; climate zones; Aboriginal Australia; disproportionate impacts; climate change
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Green, D.; Bambrick, H.; Tait, P.; Goldie, J.; Schultz, R.; Webb, L.; Alexander, L.; Pitman, A. Differential Effects of Temperature Extremes on Hospital Admission Rates for Respiratory Disease between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 15352-15365.

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