PUBLIC HEALTH IMPACTS OF HEAT WAVES: A REVIEW
Background: The average rate of global temperature doubled from 0.07°C (0.13°F) to 0.17°C (0.31°F) per decade since 1970, which has contributed to the increased frequency and intensity of heat waves. Heat waves has gained more international concern and interest as a growing issue due to its various impacts. Of particular interest is the public health impacts involving morbidity, mortality, and burden of diseases related to heat waves.
Materials and Methods: Articles were chosen by using a systematic search via three electronic database, namely PubMed, Scopus, and ScienceDirect coupled with a combination of keywords namely “climate change” OR “global warming” OR “heat waves” OR “extreme heat” OR “temperature rise” AND “public health” OR “population health” OR “community health”. Other inclusion criteria included full accessible, original studies in English language, and published in a peer-reviewed journals from 1 January 2010 to 30 September 2017.
Result and Discussion: A total of seventeen heat related articles were eligible with six articles each on morbidity and mortality respectively while remaining five additional articles discussed were mainly on the burden of diseases related to heat waves. It was found that heat waves were associated with increased morbidity related hospitalisation and mortality due to exacerbation of existing medical conditions. However, as heat wave related mortality very much depended on the event location, timing and past experiences, morbidity was suggested as a more sensitive index in assessing the population health impacts. Interestingly, despite the hospitalisation due to heat wave related illness being relatively short with lower total charges, there was still high disparity and greater burden of cost especially among the marginalised group, with mean cost exceeding over USD1000 per hospitalization. This subsequently led to productivity loss as calculated by the disability-adjusted life years (DALY), which was 1.82 per 1000 population due to heat waves.
Conclusion: A public health concern was highlighted in relation to heat wave incidences. It remains crucial to identify the public health impacts of heat waves in order to find more comprehensive public health actions in planning and preparedness for future events.Keywords: Heat waves, climate change, temperature rise, public/community health