Heatwaves and health
Individual and neighbourhood factors influence heatwave related deaths and illness
In 2019-20 PEAN supported the Reducing Illness and lives Lost from Heatwaves (RILLH) project to address the complexity of heatwaves and their impacts. A nationally consistent approach was used to assess multiple mortality and morbidity information and data at different spatial scales.
Heatwaves are an enduring feature of Australia’s climate. They have significant social, health (physical and mental), and economic impacts on the Australian community. Heatwaves cause more deaths and hospital admissions than any other hazard in Australia. Heatwaves also cause significant economic impact through disruptions to infrastructure and business.
As the climate continues to change, the need to better predict, warn, prepare, and mitigate the impacts of heatwaves becomes more pressing. Heatwave impacts vary between populations and locations, and scientific evidence concerning vulnerable people and places is critical for effective policy, planning, and interventions, especially in a warming climate.
Location-based vulnerability combined with the Bureau of Meteorology's operational heatwave hazard service will support the creation and delivery of comprehensive national heatwave impact-oriented warning services by Australia's meteorological, health and emergency services agencies.
The aims of the project were to:
- Use individual and neighbourhood level data to model the impact of heatwaves on human health in Australia and identify populations and places most at risk.
- Demonstrate the utility of linked social and environmental data from multiple agencies for interpretation of complex, coupled social and environmental problems.
- Engage with stakeholders to explore how project outputs can inform impact warning services, and preparedness and response efforts to reach those most vulnerable to heatwave.
The project contributed to improving warnings, emergency response, and health services for heatwaves by identifying which Australians are most at risk from heatwaves and exploring what can be learnt from large, linked datasets.
The project lead for PEAN was the Bureau of Meteorology, with support from the Department of Health, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and Geoscience Australia.
Links to external publications
- Heatwave-health vulnerability in Adelaide: Analysis of mortality and morbidity outcomes | Environmental Health Perspectives | Vol. 2020, No. 1 (nih.gov)
- Heatwave-related Mortality in Australia: Who's impacted the most? | European Journal of Public Health | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- Australia’s Black Summer heatwave impacts | Australia Journal of Emergency Management vol36(1) 17-2
- Characterizing the spatial variability and vulnerability of heatwaves on ambulance callouts in Adelaide | Environmental Health Perspectives | Vol. 2021, No. 1 (nih.gov)
- Social and spatial variation in heatwave-related emergency department visits in Australia | Environmental Health Perspectives | Vol. 2021, No. 1 (nih.gov)