Managing and adapting to the challenge of extreme heat requires action from all sectors of society.

Rising temperatures impact people – exacerbating social inequalities, and causing illness and death. They impact the environment – contributing to more fires, worse air quality, and water scarcity. They also impact infrastructure, causing additional challenges for those living in urban heat islands or substandard housing.

The good news is that the health impacts of extreme heat can be reduced if appropriate action is taken. Practical, feasible, and often low-cost measures can save lives.

Strategic planning, early warning systems, public preparedness, urban design and engineering solutions, legislation, and health interventions that focus on prevention can be effective ways to protect public health. Health professionals, working with other sectors, must also adjust their planning and actions to account for increasing temperatures and heatwaves. At the community and individual level, people can adjust their behaviours to protect themselves from the risks of hot weather.

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Integrated Heat Information Systems and Partnerships

The multi-sectoral impacts of heat require a multi-sectoral response.  Individuals and experts from public health, labour, social sectors, physiology, medicine, sports, environment, meteorology, climatology, architecture, engineering, urban planning all have an important role to play in managing and adapting to the risks of extreme heat.

Integrated Heat Partnerships and Information Systems are critical mechanisms to bring people and knowledge together to help better prepare for, and respond to, extreme heat.

Collaborative efforts can more effectively identify and harmonize existing capabilities, and define and deliver actionable information to reduce health-related risk long before, during, and leading up to heatwaves.

Examples of Integrated Heat Health Systems in Action:

  • National Integrated Heat Health Information System (USA)
    The NIHHIS is an multi government agency integrated system that builds understanding of the problem of extreme heat, defines demand for climate services that enhance societal resilience, develops science-based products and services from a sustained climate science research program, and improves capacity, communication, and societal understanding of the problem in order to reduce morbidity and mortality due to extreme heat.
  • Hong Kong heat partnership This collaborative multidisciplinary partnership of academic, government, and civil society partners works together to address heat across time scales and key sectors in Hong Kong.

Heat Action Plans and Warning Systems

Heat risk management requires organization and coordination of many actors. Heat Action Plans are an important mechanism to strategically bring people together to tackle the issue.

Heat Action Plans at the city, state/provincial, or federal level bring actors together to better understand and manage heat risk. Heat Action Plans and protocols can also apply to schools, hospitals, sporting and mass gathering events.

Heat Health Warning Systems are an integral part of Heat Health Action Plans provided by National Meteorological Services. HHWS provide advisories, warnings, and watches to alert decision-makers and the public to impending dangerous hot weather so that timely action can be taken.

Heat Action Plan Elements:

  • Inter-sectoral coordination
  • Heat health early warning and alert systems
  • Communications and public outreach
  • Reduction in indoor heat exposure
  • Special care for vulnerable people
  • Preparedness of the health and social care systems
  • Long-term urban planning
  • Real-time surveillance
  • Evaluation

Heat Action Plan Evaluations

  1. Heatwaves: adapting to climate change, UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee
  2. The Heat Health Warning System in Germany – Application and Warnings for 2005 to 2019

Framework for heat risk management

Short termLong term
Pre-response
  • Heat Action Plans
  • Early warning systems
  • Communicating risks
  • Building capacity for better system response and preparedness
  • Clarity of role and coordination among agencies
  • Pooling resources
  • Climate risk reduction in alignment with heat reduction
  • Policy development
  • Regulation
  • Setting heat standards and implementation for urban planning, infrastructure, industries, services like transport, building design, road, water resource management, etc.
Response
  • Activate a heat alert and the local response
  • Public awareness and community outreach
  • Prevention of heat related illness
  • Identification of heat illness and its treatment as per clinical guidance
  • Recordings of morbidity and mortality
  • Emergency response readiness
  • Community engagement
Post-response
  • Care and treatment for saving lives
  • Monitoring and health surveillance
  • Risk communication and alerts
  • Promoting coordination for integrated response
  • Analysis of trends
  • Risk profiling of cities and region
  • Strengthening support system for better response

Manage and Adapt to Extreme Heat...

In the Body

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At Home

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In the City

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At Work

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In Sports

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Interventions

Actions to improve heat health that can be taken by different groups of people, at different times and levels, and under certain conditions – these range from long term policy-level interventions for subtropical cities to school heat plans, and individual actions that can be taken at home during a heatwave.

Coming Soon: A Heat Action Platform to identify and categorize effective interventions that can be taken.

Heat Action Intervention Framework

Context / LandscapeIntervention TypeIntervention LevelIntervention Timescale
  • Urban
  • Rural
  • Tropical and Subtropical
  • Arid
  • Occupational
  • Athletics
  • Institutional
  • Healthcare
  • Household
  • Small Island Developing States
  • Mass Gatherings
  • Vulnerability Reduction
  • Physiological cooling
  • Environmental Cooling
  • Awareness and Capacity Building
  • Structural / Societal
  • Community
  • Interpersonal
  • Individual
  • During heat event
  • Heat Season (pre-post event)
  • Annual Cycle
  • Long Term