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Project Overview

As climate change progresses we can expect an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme heat events. Extreme heat events or heatwaves pose a risk to the health of individuals and a surge in the demand for emergency services. To address this problem more information is needed to identify which groups are most vulnerable to heat related stress, and where they are located within our cities. To accomplish this, a composite index of vulnerability was developed for each capital city; this included socio-demographic, health and environmental information. Concurrently information was collected about heat related health outcomes during extreme heat events. Statistical analyses identified the risk factors that best predicted the spatial variation in emergency health outcomes during extreme heat events. These risk factors varied between cities but overall age (older people), people with a disability who require assistance, people who speak a language other than English at home and people living in urban heat islands were found to have a higher risk. The heat related vulnerability index was then mapped for each capital city.This approach can inform the way the emergency management sector can respond to climate change in large urban areas in terms of prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. It will also provide government agencies, non-government organisations and communities with the necessary information to target the areas in most need of help in developing resilience to known environmental stressors such as heat events.  For example it would help to identify parts of cities that should be prioritised for landscape treatment to reduce heat, for example by the use of water sensitive urban design and irrigated green infrastructure.

An executive summary of the research can be accessed here or go to final project report.