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Preparing for Extreme Heat Events NEW

A boy and his father riding bikes

What is the problem?

Extreme heat events, or heat waves, are the most common cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. In Minnesota each year, heat-related illnesses lead to hundreds of emergency department visits and hospital stays. Planning successful prevention and response activities for extreme heat events can be difficult for public health agencies when they do not have a clear picture of who is most at risk.

What did Tracking do?

The Minnesota Tracking Program analyzed data on heat-related illnesses and deaths to inform health professionals about groups most at risk during extreme heat events. They found surprising new information, including:

  • 15- to 34-year-olds are an at-risk age group, in addition to people aged 65-years and older.
  • Rates of hospital stays and emergency department visits were higher in greater Minnesota compared to the 7-county metropolitan area that includes the Twin Cities.

State and local health professionals used the tracking data to develop and update maps showing areas with at-risk populations. The maps show which areas need support to prepare for heat waves.

Improved public health

Health agencies across Minnesota now have a clearer understanding of the people most at risk for illness or death from extreme heat. Each summer, they use the data to focus outreach and planning efforts. Then they use the data to evaluate the effectiveness of their prevention and response efforts and to monitor trends of heat-related illness over time.



Tracking the impact of a statewide carbon monoxide (CO) alarm law

Testing carbon monoxide alarm

What is the problem?

Each year, accidental CO poisonings result in several deaths and hospitalizations in Minnesota. The highest number of CO poisonings occurs during the winter months. Minnesota took an important step to prevent CO poisonings when the state passed a law that requires CO alarms in all single-family homes and multi-dwelling units. The law was put into effect from 2007 to 2009. However, with no system to track CO poisonings, the Minnesota Department of Health could not know whether the law helped lower the number of CO poisonings in the state.

What did Tracking do?

Minnesota's Tracking Program worked with the National Tracking Network to gather data and create ways to measure CO poisonings in the state. The programs put this information into a tracking report that local newspapers used to inform readers about CO poisoning prevention.

Minnesota's Tracking Program and the state Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) are working together to collect data on the number of Minnesota homes that have CO alarms. Using data from years before and after the CO alarm law, the tracking program can follow changes in the use of CO alarms and the impact on CO poisonings and exposures.

Improved public health

The CO alarm law and the system for tracking CO poisonings are examples of the way tracking data can have an effect on state and local policy. Minnesota state and local health agencies will use CO tracking and BRFSS data to measure the effectiveness of the state CO alarm law. Indoor air and healthy homes programs will also use tracking data to determine the effectiveness of activities to improve public health.



Understanding the relationship between climate change and public health

Mom giving treating young girl's asthma

What is the problem?

The global climate is changing, causing rising temperatures, melting ice and snow, rising sea levels, and climate uncertainty. However, it is hard to measure the changes in climate regionally and locally. State and local health departments need help to understand climate change better and prepare for its possible health impacts.

Minnesota is in a unique geographic position at the transition between the eastern forests and drier Great Plains. In this region, diseases carried by ticks and other insects or animals are common and influenced by changes in temperature and humidity. Minnesota is also located in a region where people are likely to suffer more from extreme heat.

What did Tracking do?

Minnesota's tracking staff worked with CDC and other states in the National Tracking Network to gather data about and find ways to measure illnesses and deaths caused by heat. Minnesota's Tracking Program is using data from hospital stays and death certificates to track health outcomes of extreme heat, such as deaths, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Improved public health

Minnesota's Tracking Program is working with state and local health programs to help them to prepare for the health effects of climate change using climate and health data along with sound science.

Data provided by Minnesota's climate change tracking program will help public health officials to develop effective strategies to prepare for the health effects of climate change.


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