Extreme heat toolkit for providers, patients, clinics

August 4, 2022 – A new extreme heat toolkit aims to provide information for healthcare providers, patients, and clinics on how to handle the serious health impacts of high temperatures.

The toolkit was put together by the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) and Americares, a nonprofit that addresses health care needs in low-income communities. Biogen provided key financial support for the project.

For providers, the toolkit offers facts on how heat affects people with conditions such as kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and diabetes, how to assess the risks faced by such patients, and how to protect them. For patients, there are tip sheets on how to stay safe when it’s hot outside—such as watching for heat alerts, staying hydrated, and checking with their doctor about whether heat may affect their medications—as well as warning signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. For clinic administrators, the toolkit offers guidance on issues such as how to respond to power outages and how to maintain resilience and sustainability during a time of climate change.

In the future, the toolkit will be updated with information on how to keep people with cardiovascular disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and mental health conditions safe from extreme heat.

Aaron Bernstein, interim director of C-CHANGE, said in an August 3, 2022, WBUR article that the toolkit’s tip sheets and “heat action plans” are meant to provide clear, easily accessible information. “In the context of climate shocks, we have to be sure we’re working to protect those most at risk first, and keeping people safe from harms that are already here and will grow greater with time,” he said.

He added that it makes sense to focus on useful information for community health centers because the people they serve are those most at risk from extreme climate-change-driven effects.

“The idea here is not to wait until people are dropping dead,” he said. “The idea here is to avoid preventable harm, and that’s a different view of resilience than we may have taken previously.”

Read the WBUR article: A new toolkit makes health tips for heat waves more accessible

Read a C-CHANGE article: Climate Resilience for Frontline Clinics