Indian City Prepares for New Season of Dangerous Heat with Innovative Early Warning System
AHMEDABAD (March 11, 2014) – Building off of last year’s successful launch of South Asia’s first-ever early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events, the Indian city of Ahmedabad, along with the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar and partners, is developing the 2014 Heat Action Plan to continue its pioneering efforts. Underscoring the importance of addressing intensifying heat in the region, a forthcoming peer-reviewed paper in the science journal PLOS ONE will document and analyze the extent of the severe May 2010 heat wave on public health in the city, adding to the growing body of science on the effects of extreme heat on local communities published since 2013.
The ground-breaking emergency preparedness plan, originally created by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) in partnership with an international coalition of health and academic groups, will help reduce the deadly impact of extreme heat by continuing efforts to initiate an early warning system for residents, providing preparation and training to medical and community workers, building public awareness of heat-related health risks, and coordinating inter-agency emergency response efforts when heat waves hit.
Ahmedabad’s efforts are, in part, a response to the deadly heat wave in May 2010, during which temperatures spiked at 46.8°C (more than 116°F), and hundreds of residents died. Rising temperatures are already leading to dangerous, even deadly, health consequences in the city, including heat stress and heatstroke. As climate change worsens, extreme heat events are expected to become more frequent and severe.
“Unbearable temperatures already are having a deadly impact in Ahmedabad, and it’s only going to get worse due to climate change,” said Anjali Jaiswal, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s India Initiative. “But Ahmedabad is rising to the challenge by implementing strategies to proactively help its residents adapt to increasing heat. By building awareness, training health professionals, and implementing a coordinated heat plan, Ahmedabad is showing other at-risk regions the way forward.”
New efforts proposed this year as part of Ahmedabad’s 2014 Heat Action Plan include fresh means of public outreach on the health risks of extreme heat, including redesigned ads and posters and placement of LED scrolling boards to announce the temperature and heat-health alerts; more robust distribution of fresh drinking water during extreme heat days; and increased training to help health workers recognize and treat patients suffering from heat-related illnesses.
Today, the project’s partners announced a media fellowship to encourage journalists to reach the public in new ways, and a request for proposals from non-governmental organizations to expand outreach and communication with the city’s most at-risk communities.
The recommendations of the 2014 Heat Action Plan are based on robust scientific analysis of temperature data, mortality data from city hospitals, emergency ambulance call records, heat vulnerability surveys, focus group results, and interviews with government officials. It is the result of collaboration between health and academic partners dating back to 2011. The coalition includes AMC and public health and policy experts at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, Public Health Foundation of India, Natural Resources Defense Council, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Sri Ramachandra University, and have been supported by the Climate & Development Knowledge Network.
“Ahmedabad’s most vulnerable populations have been carefully identified through on-the-ground studies, focus groups, interviews, and workshops that considered factors affecting heat exposure, susceptibility to heat-related illness, and adaptive capacity,” explained Dr. Jeremy Hess, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “Ahmedabad’s Heat Action Plan is tailored to help the city’s at-risk residents cope with rising heat.”
The PLOS ONE analysis of the 2010 heat wave is one of the first to analyze the mortality caused by heat in the developing world. The study is scheduled to be published this Friday. Further demonstrating the international scientific community’s interest in this cutting edge project, an overview of the plan’s development from conception to implementation in 2013 and the effects of heat on slum communities in Ahmedabad are also in press for publication in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
For more information:
The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan, Easy Read Version: 2014 Heat Action Plan
The PLOS ONE publication, “Heat-related mortality in India: Excess all-cause mortality associated with the 2010 Ahmedabad heat wave” (forthcoming and will be under a strict press embargo until March 14, 2014 at 5 pm EST. For more information, visit http://www.plosone.org/)
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health publication, “Development and Implementation of South Asia’s First Heat-Health Action Plan in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India” (currently in press and will be available here once published).
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health publication, “A Cross-sectional, Randomized Cluster Sample Survey of Household Vulnerability to Extreme Heat Among Slum Dwellers in Ahmedabad, India.”
Read more about health preparedness efforts to address rising heat in Ahmedabad in Anjali Jaiswal’s blog.