Please join us for a timely #CroakeyGO – a collaborative act of walking journalism – at Sunshine, in Melbourne’s west, on Wednesday, 11 December to hear about how communities are responding to heatwaves and associated health risks.
Below is a preliminary itinerary for the walk, exploring how communities are responding to heatwaves and associated health risks.
New reports have highlighted the need for urgent responses to the health threats raised by rising temperatures, as increasing numbers of vulnerable people are exposed to extreme heat conditions – globally and in Australia.
The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change (register for free access) explores the impact of heatwaves last year in India, across central and northern Europe, the Korean peninsula, and Northern China. In Japan, the researchers estimated that almost every person older than 65 had experienced the effects of a heatwave.
In Australia, the 2019 report of the MJA–Lancet Countdown on health and climate change reports significantly increasing exposure of Australians to heatwaves and, in most states and territories, continuing elevated suicide rates at higher temperatures.
It says adults aged over 65 years and people with underlying cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable to heat‐related morbidity and mortality.
City residents are also at increased risk because of the urban heat island (the tendency for urban areas to be warmer than surrounding rural areas).
The report also describes an upwards trend in Australia’s Heat Exposure Vulnerability Index, a measure of potential vulnerability of a country to heat exposure based on the proportion of the population aged over 65 years, the prevalence of the above underlying diseases in this subpopulation, and the proportion of the population living in urban areas.
The impacts of this trend will be felt throughout the already stretched public health system in Australia, with numbers of heat‐related hospital presentations increasing more quickly among those living with the greatest vulnerability and disadvantage than among other groups.”
The report’s authors also say:
We find little evidence to suggest that Australia is acting effectively to mitigate these multiple heat‐related risks for physical and mental health. This is particularly concerning in the context of a growing and ageing population.”
Meanwhile, the #CroakeyGO will be an opportunity to learn about how the Hot Spots projects – collaborations between community health and social services providers, local government and emergency services – are reaching out to community members who are most at-risk during extreme heat events.