A new report has spotlighted current and future health threats arising from an increase in Australians’ exposure to heatwaves, and sets the scene for discussions next week at a #CroakeyGO at Sunshine in western Melbourne with the theme #HeatwaveHealth.
It also coincides with the launch of a new publication from the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), ‘Staying Safe from Heat’, which encourages individuals, families and communities to get informed about managing the health threat of extreme heat.
Those at increased risk include older adults, children, and people who are sick or overweight, who have underlying medical conditions, especially heart disease, and those living with poverty, and who are socially isolated. People who are physically active or work outdoors in the heat are also of concern.
The PHAA publication suggests that people who are elderly or on regular medicines should make a heatwave plan with their GP.
Meanwhile, the Climate Council’s new report says heatwaves are lasting longer, reaching higher maximum temperatures and are occurring more frequently over many regions of Australia.
A heatwave is defined as a period of at least three days where the combined effect of high temperatures and excess heat is unusual within the local climate. Thus, a heatwave for Hobart will occur at lower temperatures than one for Alice Springs. Excess heat occurs when unusually high overnight temperatures do not provide relief from daytime heat.
Titled ‘Dangerous Summer: Escalating Bushfire, Heat and Drought Risk‘, the report says that during the 2018/2019 summer, exceptional heatwaves occurred, which were notable for their continental-wide scale, as well as for breaking records for duration and individual daily extremes.
Heatwaves now start earlier – by 19 days in Sydney and by 17 days in Melbourne during the period 1981-2011, compared to 1950-1980.
The intensity of the hottest day in a heatwave has increased in all cities. Most dramatically, the peak day in Adelaide is, on average, now 4.3°C higher in 1981-2011 than it was in 1950–1980.
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Meanwhile, the 11 December #CroakeyGO will be an opportunity to learn about how the Hot Spots projects – collaborations between community health and social services providers, local government and emergency services – are reaching out to community members who are most at-risk during extreme heat events.
• Bookmark this link to track our coverage of the #HeatwaveHealth #CroakeyGO.