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The potential for prevention of heat related deaths when heat waves become more extreme

Research project

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2012-02-22 2013-12-31


Forskningsrådet FAS, 2011-2013: SEK 2,100,000

Research area

Public health and health care science

Project description

The project will examine how the mortality rates at high temperatures are affected in different groups which we assume to be particularly vulnerable because of their medical condition. The groups are defined using information on previous hospital admissions. Another purpose is to study if the lack of health care resources in summer influences the risk of dying during a heat wave. We will also analyze the effects of preventive measures have had in other countries, and calculate how we in Sweden would be affected by extreme a heat wave with the current emergency plans and with the appropriate preventive measures. Climate change is observed in terms of warmer temperatures and heat waves with high mortality. We have already published articles showing that the hot days and heat waves have already had a significant impact on mortality in Stockholm. On a warm summer week, the number of deaths increases by about 15%. Worrying is that the effect of heat on mortality in Stockholm has more than doubled in 12 years. This suggests a lack of knowledge and that the relevant preventive measures are not used. Many countries that have been hit hard by heat waves, for example many in Europe in 2003 with estimated 70 000 deaths, have subsequently introduced preventive programs. Better understanding of the associations and international experience is important to correct design and target preventive measures, such as having staff in geriatric care to know which groups of patients who need extra effort, and the seriousness of the hot weather (in terms of temperature and number of days) needed to trigger their plans.