Published 30 January 2020
Climate change is here, and it is now. Of all developed countries across the globe, Australia is probably the most vulnerable to the consequences. One of the leading climate change-related health hazards for Australians is the effect of extreme heat. In the short-term, the legacy of human activities to date have set an inevitable trajectory for our climate. Every year, new temperature records are being set, and by the year 2030, days with peak temperatures that were previously considered “extreme” in the 1970s will be the new “normal”. Mitigating the health effects of extreme heat has now been declared “the public health challenge for the 21st century,” leading to numerous medical associations, including most recently the Australian Medical Association, to formally recognise heat as a leading component of the health emergency that climate change poses to humans.
In response to this threat, public health bodies over the last decade have implemented heat-health action plans that aim to provide the public with information to reduce their personal heat stress risk. While there is some evidence to support the efficacy of these heat-health action plans, several major limitations typically remain:
- The health impacts of hot temperatures can potentially be modified by factors such as wind speed, humidity, and solar radiation exposure.
- The health impacts of hot weather are not yet individualised in a manner that accounts for factors such as age, medication, co-morbidities and social factors
- Many recommendations to mitigate the health effects of hot weather are not grounded in scientific evidence.
- Policy responses to heat stress remain primarily focused on the individual, while global research illustrates the need to emphasise community resources, such as accessible cooling centres and viable transport, for the most vulnerable.
Our Neighbourhood Heat Stress Response Project aims to address these shortcomings by developing and implementing a simplified extreme heat-health policy that delivers evidence-based heat-health advice based on on-going experimental studies to the wider community through a variety of platforms, including an interactive smartphone-based app and a public messaging campaign.
This project is in partnership with Resilient Sydney at the City of Sydney and the Research Hub on Human Health and Social Impacts of Climate Change at the University of Sydney.