Connecting the social and built environment to health and health inequalities

Carina Gronlund

Research Assistant Professor, Social Environment and Health Program

As an environmental epidemiologist and with funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and Detroit community input, I study how social, economic, health, and built environment characteristics and/or air quality affect vulnerability to extreme heat and extreme precipitation. This research will help cities understand how to adapt to heat, heat waves, higher pollen levels, and heavy rainfall in a changing climate.

I received my BA in Biology from the University of Chicago, with a specialization in Ecology and Evolution. Subsequently, I worked as a research assistant in the Clinical Trials Office at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, MI before pursing a Masters in Public Health at the University of Michigan. I completed my MPH in 2008 and then completed my PhD in 2013 in the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, where I was a National Institute on Aging Public Health and Aging trainee. My dissertation focused on associations between high temperatures and hospital admissions and mortality among the elderly as well as sociodemographic and land cover characteristics that modify these associations. In my postdoctoral fellowships, I studied how social and environmental characteristics influence vulnerability to heat-related health effects, using data from longitudinal studies of cardiovascular health in seven U.S. cities as well as state and national records of severe health events.

Research Projects

Assessing the Neuropsychological Benefits of Weatherization Programs

(R01 ES032157)

Modifications to homes that increase energy efficiency and improve indoor temperatures may reduce the health impacts of extreme temperatures and financial stress. We will characterize and monetize the health impacts of low-cost and higher-cost weatherization measures, which may improve the health of older adults through improvements to sleep, cognitive function, and financial worry as well as community-wide reductions in air pollution exposure. Weatherization interventions may allow older adults to both mitigate and adapt to extreme weather.

SCC-IRG Track 1: Reducing Barriers to Residential Energy Security through an Integrated Case-management, Data-driven, Community-based approach


The goal of this Smart and Connected Communities (SCC) project is to explore the efficacy of new social-technological paradigms to reduce residential energy insecurity for low- and moderate-income (LMI) households in three neighborhoods in Detroit, Michigan, which is one of the top ten highest energy burdened metros in the US.

Climate Change and Allergies (Institute for Global Change Biology)

With climate change, pollen levels are rising in many parts of the country. Using a new daily speciated pollen model, we are estimating the onset and time course of allergy and asthma symptoms in people with allergies as well as associations between asthma emergency department visits and different species of pollen in the Industrial Midwest.

Causal Mechanisms for Sustainable Adaptation to Adverse Heat and Precipitation Health Effects

(NIEHS R00ES026198)

Wide socioeconomic disparities exist in weather-associated morbidity and mortality. Using novel data linkages while working with local officials and community leaders to understand the housing and health characteristics that increase vulnerability to heat-and precipitation-associated health effects will help identify optimal and sustainable strategies for adapting to increasing extreme weather events

Key Publications

  • Bergmans RS, Larson P, Bennion E, Mezuk B, Wozniak MC, Steiner AL, Gronlund CJ. Short-term exposures to atmospheric evergreen, deciduous, grass, and ragweed aeroallergens and the risk of suicide in Ohio, 2007-2015: Exploring disparities by age, gender, and education level. Environ Res. 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.111450.
  • Khan AM, Finlay JM, Clarke P, Sol K, Melendez R, Judd S, Gronlund CJ. Regional Analysis of Acute Exposure to Extreme Temperatures and Cognitive Function in Older Adults: An Analysis from the REGARDS Cohort. 2021. BMC Public H. 2021. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-021-11533-x.
  • Larson PS, Gronlund CJ, Thompson L, Sampson N, Washington R, Steis Thorsby J, Lyon N, Miller C. Recurrent home flooding in Detroit, MI 2012-2020: Results of a household survey. Int J Environ Res Public H. 2021. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18147659.
  • Cardoza J, Gronlund CJ, Rowe Z, Schott J, Lee M, Clark S, Williams G, Harlan S, Ziegler T, O’Neill M. Heat-related illness is associated with lack of air conditioning and pre-existing health problems in Detroit, Michigan, USA: A community-based participatory co-analysis of survey data. Int J Environ Res Public H. 2020. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17165704.
  • Gronlund CJ, Berrocal V. Modeling and comparing central air conditioning ownership and cold-season in-home thermal comfort using the American Housing Survey. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41370-020-0220-8.
  • Gronlund CJ, Yang AJ, Conlon KC, Burkhart RS, O’Neill MS, Le HQ, Batterman SA, Wahl RL, Cameron L. A time series analysis of total and direct associations between high temperatures and preterm births in Detroit, Michigan. BMJ Open. 2020. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-032476.
  • Gronlund CJ, Cameron L, Shea C, O’Neill MS. Assessing the magnitude and uncertainties of the burden of selected diseases attributable to extreme heat and extreme precipitation under a climate change scenario in Michigan for the period 2041-2070. Environ Health. 2019. DOI: 10.1186/s12940-019-0483-5.
  • Gronlund CJ, Sullivan K. Kefelgn Y, Cameron L, O’Neill MS. Climate change and temperature extremes: a review of heat- and cold-related morbidity and mortality concerns of municipalities. Maturitas, 2018, 114:54-59. DOI: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2018.06.002
  • Gronlund CJ, Sheppard L, O’Neill MS, Adar S, Auchincloss A, Kaufman J, Lima JA, Madrigano J, Diez Roux AV. Vulnerability to the cardiovascular effects of summer heat in six U.S. cities: Results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Epidemiology, 2018. Epidemiology. 2018 Nov;29(6):756-764. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000910.
  • Gronlund CJ, Zanobetti A, Wellenius GA, Schwartz JD, O’Neill MS. Vulnerability to renal, heat and respiratory hospitalizations during extreme heat among U.S. elderly. Climatic Change, 2016, 136(3):631-645. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-016-1638-9.
  • Gronlund CJ, Berrocal VJ, White-Newsome JL, Conlon KC, O’Neill MS. Vulnerability to extreme heat by individual characteristics and area green space and socio-demographic characteristics among the elderly in Michigan, 1990-2007. Environ Res, 2014, 136:449-461. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.08.042.
  • Gronlund CJ, Zanobetti A, Schwartz JD, Wellenius GA, O’Neill MS. Heat, heat waves and hospital admissions among the elderly in the United States, 1992-2006. Environ Health Perspect, 2014, 122(11): 1187-1192. DOI:10.1289/ehp.1206132.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

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