Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Who turned up the heat?

When you leave San Diego to head home, you may wish that your city’s weather were just as mild and sunny year-round.

But be careful what you wish for. According to presenters at Tuesday’s “Weather, Heat and Health” session, mortality increases as ambient temperatures rise above a city-specific threshold (i.e., a 100-degree day in Phoenix isn’t as damaging as a 100-degree day in Boston).

The risk not only varies between cities, but within cities, said presenter Audrey Smargiassi, whose research used satellite images to locate “hot spots” within cities. Part of the increased mortality linked to heat is tied to socioeconomic status, she said, and more research is needed to tease out the causes.

Norman King, of Montreal’s health department, said that city officials should continue the research to find better ways to protect susceptible populations in urban areas.

“It’s one thing to document the fact that people are more vulnerable to heat events in these micro-urban heat islands, but the question is what do we do about it,” he said.

King’s department distributes educational materials and uses the media to spread the word that heat waves can be deadly. He said their effects tend to be more dramatic if they come early in the warm season, before the public’s awareness is heightened.

If you want more information about weather and public health, the National Environmental Education Foundation offers free information for meteorologists to help them incorporate public health and environmental messages into their broadcasts. And here’s an additional online resource to check out:, a site dedicated to analyzing climate change in urban areas.

Well, that’s it for this blogger and public health student at this year’s APHA Annual Meeting. It’s been a great time, and I’m leaving more inspired than ever to continue my education and career in public health. Thanks for reading and safe travels!


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