Honors Program

Honors in Health Sciences: Environmental Health

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Ying Li

Thesis Professor Department

Environmental Health

Thesis Reader(s)

Kurt Maier


The Appalachian Mountains are home to some of the most culturally rich places in the United States, but also some of the most impoverished communities as well. Several recent events support climate change across the globe. It is expected that Appalachian communities may suffer more dire consequences, as many communities lack strategies to help relieve some of the worst effects of climate change. Heatwaves are predicted to increase in duration and frequency over time, and communities that are not well prepared for the damaging effects of heatwaves can suffer unduly. This study aims to quantify the likelihood that people living in economically distressed counties in the Central and Southern Central regions of Appalachia will face heatwave related mortality more intensely than those who live in more affluent counties in the same regions. Twelve counties from each socioeconomic group have been selected based on the county economic status to analyze climate and mortality data over thirty-eight years starting in 1981 and ending in 2018. Data was collected during the warm season for each county, May 1st to September 30th, and compared to the mortality data from the same county during the same warm season. This study used all-cause mortality numbers from each of the twenty-four counties for the mortality data. The relative risk for each county in both the distressed and affluent categories was calculated. The average relative risk for each socioeconomic status were then compared. The results of this study did not show statistical significance in the likelihood that being in a socioeconomically distressed county increases one's chances of succumbing to heatwave related mortality in the Central and Southern Central regions of Appalachia. More research with larger sample sizes and more attention paid to the factors driving socioeconomic status is needed to better assess the relationship of heatwave mortality to socioeconomic status.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.