J5.3 Reducing Heat-Health Vulnerability in India

Wednesday, 25 January 2017: 11:00 AM
Conference Center: Tahoma 5 (Washington State Convention Center )
Kim Knowlton, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, NY; and D. Mavalankar, P. Ganguly, A. Tiwari, P. Dutta, L. Sathish, P. Sheffield, N. Kaur, A. Jaiswal, and J. J. Hess

Higher temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are being fueled globally by climate change. Coordinated action is needed to prevent the harmful health effects of this extreme heat, especially in developing countries with low adaptive capacity and high heat exposures. Led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Public Health Foundation of India, and the Indian Institute of Public Health in Gandhinagar, a coalition of academic, health, and environmental groups partnered to help communities deal with increasingly extreme heat in the city of Ahmedabad, located in Gujarat state of western India.

Ahmedabad is the first city in South Asia to develop a heat wave early warning system and a Heat Action Plan (HAP) that comprehensively addresses the health threats of extreme heat. Early results from Ahmedabad report that observed daily all-cause mortality during heat waves is lower since the implementation of the HAP in 2013.

Several lessons were learned including: the importance of strong partnerships; the value of municipalities’ support in developing well-coordinated early warning systems; media’s key role in reaching heat-vulnerable residents; and the tremendous benefits of dialogue between meteorological forecasters like the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and the public health community. In future, developing robust surveillance for heat-related illnesses and mortality will help municipalities as they evaluate the effects of heat early warning systems on heat vulnerability.

Some unmanaged vulnerability to heat remains, since heat-protective measures are not yet available to all residents. Reaching more of the most heat-vulnerable is a near-term goal that will enhance Ahmedabad’s longer-term resilience to rising heat and its threats to health. In Ahmedabad, heatwaves are now an actionable public health issue.

The heat-health early warning system in Ahmedabad has served as a model for two other regions and ten other cities in India, who have adapted the work from Ahmedabad to launch their own HAPs in 2016.

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