Keeping people safe from extreme heat

July 14, 2023 – With millions of Americans facing day after day of temperatures well above 100 degrees, experts from the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) are speaking out about ways to mitigate the dangerous health effects of extreme heat.

In a July 12 segment on NBC10 Boston, Gaurab Basu, director of education and policy at C-CHANGE and a primary care physician, and Caleb Dresser, director of healthcare solutions at C-CHANGE and an emergency medicine doctor, spoke about using an extreme heat toolkit for health care providers aimed at ensuring that people have heat action plans to keep them safe when temperatures soar. The toolkit, put together by C-CHANGE and Americares, offers information on how to protect patients from a range of climate change-related events, including wildfires, hurricanes, and floods.

Basu said that the toolkit sends him an alert when days of extreme heat are predicted. Based on that information, he might advise certain patients to stay home, reschedule an appointment, or do a telehealth visit. “We think a lot about this with snow days,” he said. “We should be thinking in a similar way about heat.”

Dresser noted that the toolkit provides information on how heat affects patients with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or asthma. He added, “We’re going to be dealing with hot weather for the rest of our lives in ways we may never have experienced before.”

Basu also discussed the importance of “greening” cities in both a June 30 AP article and in a June 26 commentary he co-authored for WBUR’s Cognoscenti, noting that planting trees can help mitigate the effect of “heat islands” in communities of color surrounded by concrete and few trees.

Dresser was also quoted in a June 14 Harvard Health Blog article about who, how, and why heat harms.

Watch the NBC10 Boston segment: Heat toolkit helps doctors and patients deal with temperature-related health risks

Read the June 30 AP article featuring Basu: Heat waves like the one that’s killed 14 in the souther US are becoming more frequent and enduring

Read the June 26 WBUR commentary co-authored by Basu: Boston’s summer heat is an issue of racial equity. ‘Greening’ our city is one solution

Read the Harvard Health Blog article featuring Dresser: A hot weather plan is essential to staying healthy

Learn more

The dangers of extreme heat (Harvard Chan School news)

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