Database and Tools for Investigation of Climate-Mediated Human Disease

EPA Grant Number: R832753
Title: Database and Tools for Investigation of Climate-Mediated Human Disease
Investigators: Smith, Mark S. , Feied, Craig , Gillam, Michael , Handler, Jonathan
Institution: Washington Hospital Center
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: August 1, 2006 through July 31, 2010
Project Amount: $443,420
RFA: Decision Support Systems Involving Climate Change and Public Health (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Health Effects , Health , Climate Change


Climate exerts an important influence on many aspects of human disease, yet investigation in this area has been hampered by a lack of suitable datasets and tools to facilitate the identification of climate-disease associations and the detection of “sentinel patterns” already known to be important. The primary aim of the project is creation of a new database to support research and decision-making related to human disease that is caused, triggered, modified, or predicted by changes in climatologic conditions.


The overall goal of Project Climate Query is to integrate local and regional climate data with national emergency visit registries to support research into climate-related public health issues. The objectives of Project Climate Query are: (1) to better identify and understand patterns of climate-related disease, particularly those with potential public health significance; (2) to create tools that allow for repeated application of existing methodologies; and (3) to improve communication channels to allow research to impact public health outcomes.


Project Climate Query will: (1) instantiate a new database by combining daily climate data with detailed de-identified data from the largest existing multi-region registries of emergency department and urgent care visits; (2) convene an expert panel to identify the most pressing issues and most appropriate existing methodologies for investigating associations between climate and disease; (3) re-apply existing methodologies to examine climate and health data from previously unstudied areas of the country; (4) develop scripts and software agents to facilitate repeated application of existing methodologies; (5) integrate existing communication tools into the registry to allow instant contact with hundreds of public health departments and emergency departments across the country; and (6) publish findings and release open-source software tools so the methods and findings of the project can be replicated in other labs, applied to other datasets, and reused or modified by other scientists as needed.

The investigators currently operate the National Biosurveillance Testbed (NBT) and the National Emergency Encounter Registry (NEER), the nation’s largest multi-region registries of emergency department and urgent care visits, with more than 40 terabytes of current data available for a variety of research and operational purposes. Integrated research tools include SAS statistical software, ESRI and MapPoint geo-mapping, SatScan cluster detection, OpenDx visualization, and a variety of custom scripts, filters, queries, and software agents. Registry data and associated tools are accessed via Internet2 /VPN or through an existing NIH-funded collaboratory (“Project Sentinel”) that links hospitals and qualified researchers together with the DC Dept. of Health and with the Secretary’s command center at the US Department of Health and Human Services. The nation’s largest installed base of incident management software (EMSystem) is integrated for immediate bidirectional communication with 26% of the nation’s emergency departments and local health departments.

The proposed “Climate Query” registry and database will incorporate this prior work, now integrating detailed data from the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) with detailed de-identified data from the NBT and NEER registries, tools from the existing Project Sentinel collaboratory and nationwide communication environment from the existing installed base of EMSystem.

Expected Results:

Through the development of an integrated database and robust data-mining and communication tools, it is expected that existing methodologies for investigating associations between climate and disease will be able to be applied to current and expansive clinical datasets, enabling public health preparedness and intervention. We believe a substantial community benefit may be achieved by identifying susceptible populations and recurring sentinel events, allowing remediation that may help to prevent the outbreak of a large-scale epidemic of climate-mediated disease.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

climate, health effects, decision making, data mining, public health, healthcare, communication,, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, Air, Health Risk Assessment, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Risk Assessments, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, air quality modeling, ecosystem models, decision making database tool, climatic influence, Project Sentinel, modeling, climate models, demographics, human exposure, regional climate model, ambient air pollution, Global Climate Change

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009 Progress Report
  • Final Report