WHO/Europe awareness campaign to reduce heat risks as July 2023 set to become the earth’s hottest month on record
Leading climate-related causes of death, illness and suffering result from exposure to increasingly frequent and more intense extreme weather events, including heatwaves, wildfires, floods and storm surges, as well as slow-onset events such as droughts.
Heatwaves across Europe are affecting the health and livelihoods of millions of people. In 2022 in the WHO European Region, extreme heat claimed more than 60 000 lives, and by 2050 this could rise to 120 000 heat-related deaths every year. Climate change is increasing the risk of heatwaves, and extreme heat in the summer months is becoming the norm, not the exception.
High temperatures affect the health of many people, particularly older people, infants, people who work outdoors and those who are chronically ill. Heat can trigger exhaustion and heat stroke, and can aggravate existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory and kidney diseases or mental disorders.
The adverse health effects of hot weather are largely preventable through good public health practices.
Strengthening preparedness for and resilience to climate change in the region
Heat is a growing health risk due to burgeoning urbanization, an increase in high-temperature extremes and demographic changes in countries with ageing populations, like most WHO European Member States.
Measures to adapt to future extreme heatwaves include:
- heat–health action plans that incorporate early warning and response systems for urban and non-urban settings;
- response strategies targeting both the general population and vulnerable groups such as older adults and people who work outside; and
- effective stakeholder communication plans.
Heat–health action plans are crucial to adaptation to climate change, protecting communities from heat-related death and disease. More than 20 countries in the Region have heat–health plans in place.
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