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Evaluating Changes in Health Risk from Drought over the Contiguous United States.

Abstract

The outcomes of drought can be difficult to assess due to the complexity of its effects. While most risk assessments of drought are developed for agriculture or water resources, the associations with human health are not well studied due to unclear and complex pathways. This study is the first to assess potential changes in health risk from droughts during the last decade in the contiguous United States. To assess the risk, we spatially superimposed vulnerability variables associated with drought on historical drought exposure over the last decade. Different variations in Local Moran's I statistics were used to assess the spatial distribution of health vulnerability, risk of drought, and changes in the two five-year study periods (2010-2014 and 2015-2019). Our results show large clusters of the western United States had a significant increase in risk during the latter part of the study period due to increases in vulnerability and hazard. In addition, southern areas of the United States were consistently above the national average in drought risk. Since our vulnerability variables include agriculture, drinking water, and sociodemographic indicators, the results of this study can help various experts interested in drought preparedness efforts associated with human health.

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