Individual and Public-Program Adaptation: Coping with Heat Waves in Five Cities in Canada

Anna Alberini, Will Gans, Mustapha Alhassan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
171 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Heat Alert and Response Systems (HARS) are currently undergoing testing and implementation in Canada. These programs seek to reduce the adverse health effects of heat waves on human health by issuing weather forecasts and warnings, informing individuals about possible protections from excessive heat, and providing such protections to vulnerable subpopulations and individuals at risk. For these programs to be designed effectively, it is important to know how individuals perceive the heat, what their experience with heat-related illness is, how they protect themselves from excessive heat, and how they acquire information about such protections. In September 2010, we conducted a survey of households in 5 cities in Canada to study these issues. At the time of the survey, these cities had not implemented heat outreach and response systems. The study results indicate that individuals’ recollections of recent heat wave events were generally accurate. About 21% of the sample reported feeling unwell during the most recent heat spell, but these illnesses were generally minor. Only in 25 cases out of 243, these illnesses were confirmed or diagnosed by a health care professional. The rate at which our respondents reported heat-related illnesses was higher among those with cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, was higher among younger respondents and bore no relationship with the availability of air conditioning at home. Most of the respondents indicated that they would not dismiss themselves as “not at risk” and that they would cope with excessive heat by staying in air conditioned environments and keeping well hydrated. Despite the absence of heat outreach and education programs in their city, our respondents at least a rough idea of how to take care of themselves. The presence of air conditioning and knowledge of cooling centers is location-specific, which provides opportunities for targeting HARS interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4679-4701
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume8
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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