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GCN : October and November 2016
62 GCN OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2016 • GCN.COM CLIMATE.GOV case study BY AMANDA ZIADEH BIG DATA Pinal County turned to SAS Analytics to monitor trends and populations at risk of succumbing to the area’s intensely hot summers Big data helps Arizona county beat the heat Arizona’s Pinal County is using analytics software to monitor risk factors as- sociated with heat-related illnesses caused by the state’s extremely high summer temperatures. “Heat can be deadly down here in Arizona,” Graham Briggs, administra- tor of the Infectious Disease Control Section at Pinal County Public Health, told GCN. “We knew that people were getting sick related to the heat in our specific county, but we didn’t know anything more than that.” Officials realized that if they were to take a more rigorous approach to heat morbidity, they needed data. Therefore, the Pinal County Pub- lic Health Services District turned to SAS, a provider of analytics software, to help investigators monitor and ana- lyze heat-related illnesses. Officials wanted to measure the rate of heat morbidity and the populations affected so they could determine how to identify and mitigate the risks. The county’s staff gathered years of data from statewide mortality databases and hospital discharge sheets looking for patterns and risk factors for heat stroke, hyperthermia and heat shock. The software ran through 1 million rows and 200 columns of data, which revealed spikes and clusters of heat illnesses in certain populations and locations. In the public health field, epidemi- ologists use statistical methodology to analyze and manipulate enormous amounts of data that are often too large for Microsoft Excel to manage, Briggs said. That’s where SAS Analyt- ics came into play. Integrating the data was relatively seamless, said Sammy Packard, a pub- lic health data analyst for Pinal Coun- ty. SAS uses the same files as Excel, and it is capable of reading, detecting and identifying the diagnostic codes Temperatures rose well above 100 degrees across the desert Southwest in June, breaking numerous daily temperature records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate.gov. Although the Southwest is used to hot temperatures, conditions from June 18-22 were life-threatening. 1116gcn_062-063.indd 62 10/6/16 9:31 AM
August and September 2016
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