Which definition of a heatwave is best able to estimate health impacts? What is the knowledge of the general population of Brussels and Amsterdam on protective measures for heat? Does this differ with Lisbon and Madrid?
These and other questions related to heatwaves and health were addressed in an ENHANCE project expert group meeting in Brussels on the 9th of September. The aim of the meeting was to discuss and exchange views on the preliminary findings and next steps of the research with key stakeholders. The participants included representatives from the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Municipal Health Service of Nijmegen, both in the Netherlands, the Public Service of Wallonia in Belgium, as well as from the UNISDR.
The workshop was led by the ENHANCE partners Dr Debarati Guha-Sapir1 and Dr Joris van Loenhout 2, who introduced the topic of the meeting, highlighting the likely increase in people’s exposure to high temperatures due to climate change and urbanisation, and presented the main components of the ENHANCE case study on heatwaves and health: (1) increase evidence for impact of heat on mortality and morbidity; (2) assess the perceptions of stakeholders of national heatwave plans; and (3) assess the knowledge of general populations on heat and health.
The research findings point to an increase in respiratory and, in particular, heat diseases during extreme heat events. In addition, the outcomes of the stakeholder interviews in Belgium and the Netherlands indicate, among other recommendations, a need for awareness-raising among care organisations and more clarity of roles and responsibilities between stakeholders. Dr van Loenhout and Conceição Colaço3 also shared the survey results on the general populations’ knowledge on heat and health in the four cities studied – Brussels, Amsterdam, Lisbon and Madrid. The results show that efforts at heat awareness-raising could be strengthened, especially among individuals with a lower education.
Further presentations during the day were given by Ingrid Links4, Sander Banus5 and Sophie Lokietek6, who talked about experiences with the local heatwave plan in the Netherlands and the evaluation of the heat and ozone plan in Belgium, 10 years after its introduction, respectively.
The workshop saw a useful exchange of ideas and experiences between the ENHANCE researchers and the participating stakeholders. In general, the low awareness around the issue of heatwaves and their health impacts was seen as surprising and follow-up actions were considered essential. The importance of evidence, on the economic but also on the health effects, in communicating with the general public and the policy-makers was highlighted. ‘A National Heatwave Plan is not a meteorological plan but a health care plan. In essence, it is about taking care of each other and especially looking after groups at risk for heat-related health effects’, underline Ingrid Links and Sander Banus.
1 Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
2 Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
3 Instituto Superior de Agronomia, University of Lisbon, Portugal
4 Municipal Health Service of Nijmegen, the Netherlands
5 National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Netherlands
6 Public Service of Wallonia, Belgium
Note to readers:
‘Health preparedness and heatwave response plans’ is one of the ten case studies of the ENHANCE project, which aims to enhance risk management partnerships set up to deal with catastrophic natural hazards in Europe.
Listen to the interview with Dr van Loenhout on the ENHANCE work to increase health resilience to extreme heat events.
Want a copy of the upcoming ENHANCE book? Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.