J5.1 Beating the Heat: Building the Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN)

Wednesday, 25 January 2017: 10:30 AM
Conference Center: Tahoma 5 (Washington State Convention Center )
Joy Shumake-Guillemot, WMO, Geneva, Switzerland; and J. Trtanj

Human exposure to extreme heat is one of the principle and most manageable impacts of climate on human health.  Every year worldwide, tens of thousands of people die as a result of avoidable heat-induced health consequences such as heat stroke, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, dehydration, and pharmaceutical side effects. Countless others who are exposed to prolonged excessive temperatures experience physiological stress and ill health, which in some cases is permanent.  The impacts in developing countries in recent years, such as South Asia, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East have been particularly dramatic, especially in vulnerable and unprepared communities.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts with high confidence, that the observed trend of heat waves lasting longer, occurring more frequently, occurring earlier in the year, and at increasingly higher than normal temperatures will continue into the future. This situation requires the global health community to aggressively confront this recognized risk, and take feasible and practical actions to prevent the largely preventable ill health effects. In reality many countries and cities worldwide have developed heat action plans or heat/health early warning systems—or are planning to.  Yet these efforts are only connected in an ad-hoc fashion, use a broad range of non-standardized tools, methods, and approaches, and lack a clear mechanism to learn from each other in order to more rapidly advance health protection.  To address this gap and accelerate heat health protection, the Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN) was launched in June 2016, by the WMO/WHO joint office for Climate and Health and NOAA Climate Program Office, who are working together to jointly foster the initiative.

The GHHIN is an international network of professionals including, and intended to assist, public health practitioners, government authorities, community service organizations, urban planners, and the meteorological and climate community by providing greater access to information which can facilitate more effective collective action and accelerate life-saving measures for heat health protection.  GHHIN is also designed to provide feedback into data, observations and research needs. To facilitate knowledge sharing and best practices, GHHIN members are encouraged to incorporate a common framework into their projects and activities, and to meet or otherwise communicate regularly. Still under formulation by founding members, the goal of GHHINs is to improve the collective capacity of governments and professional partners to protect populations from the avoidable health risks of extreme heat. The following objectives will help to achieve this goal: 1) to generate actionable evidence vis-à-vis activities to develop, share, and promote standardized technical guidance, research, data, and decision-tools; 2) to provide a communication and information sharing mechanism that can promote best practices in heat health research, prevention, communication to accelerate the implementation of heat health prevention; 3) to build capacity for heat health action through the mobilization of a wide-range of expert resources; and 4) to use available evidence to advocate for action and cultivate sustained funding for the global network, its partners, and activities. 

The GHHIN will use as its guiding backbone the NOAA and CDC-led National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) Framework. The NIHHIS framework consists of a set of key questions that must be resolved in order to provide specific, impactful, and adaptive climate and health information to a diverse set of decision-makers on time scales from short-term early warning to long-term climate resilience. These questions include consideration of institutional capacity and partnerships, heat-health parameters and monitoring, data and forecast product needs, and engagement & communication strategies. The GHHIN is also expected to have regionally focus nodes, such as the emerging network of partners in South Asia, as a result of the April 2016 WMO Climate Service User-Forum which explored the needs and opportunities for a South Asia Heat Health Action Network.  The purpose of this presentation is to communicate GHHIN to a wide audience and encourage others working on heat health to become engaged.

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