RHHD Analyst Authors Paper on Urban Heat Exposure

RICHMOND, VA – Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD)’s own Peter Braun served as lead author on the paper “A Heat Emergency: Urban Heat Exposure and Access to Refuge in Richmond, VA,” which was recently published in GeoHealth, a transdisciplinary open access journal.

Braun is a built environment policy analyst with RHHD. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, built environment can generally be described as the human-made or modified structures that provide people with living, working, and recreational spaces.

GeoHealth publishes high-quality original research articles and commentaries across the intersections of the Earth and environmental sciences and health sciences. From Braun’s article’s Plain Language Summary:

While human-caused climate change is driving average global temperatures to rise, some communities and neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia experience hotter temperatures than others. This is largely due to a historical lack of government investment in Black and low-income neighborhoods. Hotter, less resourced neighborhoods experience more heat-related health emergencies like heat stroke and heat exhaustion. This study found significant relationships between the location of heat-related illness Emergency Medical Services data from Richmond, Virginia and areas which are measurably hotter.

The research group that Braun worked with also looked at the relationship between the locations of heat-related illness Emergency Medical Services responses and built refuge locations like libraries, cooling centers, and bus stops. They found that many of the heat-related illnesses in the study period occurred within a short walking distance of cooling centers and in close proximity to unsheltered bus stops. The research group included faculty and staff from University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, and staff from Virginia Department of Health Office of Emergency Medical Services.

“Spending just a few hours at a cooling center can help prevent heat-related illnesses, but a lot of Richmonders might not know these cooling centers exist or they might not have a safe way to get there,” said Braun. “In some neighborhoods, if you have to walk down a street without sidewalks or shade from street trees or if you have to wait at a bus stop without a shelter, you’re going to be exposed to extreme heat.”

The City of Richmond offers cooling refuge at the following locations:

·         Monday – Saturday

  • Department of Social Services Marshall Plaza: 900 E. Marshall St., Suite 160, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Department of Social Services – Southside Plaza: 4100 Hull Street Road, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.


Henrico County provides cooling refuge at several recreation centers and at all Henrico Public Libraries.

GRTC bus service is zero-fare this summer and all GRTC buses are air-conditioned.

RHHD raises awareness on heat and heat-related illness through social media, internal and external newsletters and messaging, and by providing alerts to community health workers who serve vulnerable populations. For more tips on how to stay cool this summer, please see this recent post on the VDH blog.

RHHD invites Richmond and Henrico residents to sign up for RHHD’s weekly newsletter to receive more information on heat and heat related illness.




Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) are sister public health agencies serving our connected communities. Our mission is to protect health, champion equity, and partner to address local needs.

rhhd.gov | henrico.us/health | RCHD Facebook | HCHD Facebook | IG: @richmondcity_hd

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