4.1 Climatology and Public Health: The Case of Extreme Events

Wednesday, 9 January 2013: 10:30 AM
Room 6B (Austin Convention Center)
Paul English, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA

Over the last two years, deaths, illnesses, and injuries have accompanied record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events in the U.S. The need for timely and science-based public health preparedness and adaptation programs for heat waves and storms is reaching a critical juncture. Although emergency preparedness professionals and epidemiologists work with climatologists, it is evident that more collaboration is needed to move towards consensus on cross-discipline definitions of extreme heat events and criteria that the National Weather Service (NWS) uses to issue heat products, and to conduct accurate surveillance of deaths and injuries following extreme weather events. As no consistent definition of extreme heat has been adopted by meteorologists, we will present work being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program and the California Department of Public Health to examine the health sensitivity of various cutpoints for extreme heat and evaluations of the public health relevance of NWS-issued heat products such as heat alerts and warnings. We will also discuss the data and processes that currently exist for documenting injuries and deaths following extreme weather events and recommendations from national public health organizations on how to improve reporting. We will highlight the important role the climatology community can play in ameliorating the increasing health effects of climate change by providing necessary meteorological data, educating public health professionals, and opening lines of communication to work more closely with health departments and primary emergency responders such as the Red Cross.
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