Heat waves and rising temperatures: Human health impacts and the determinants of vulnerability

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Scopus citations


Globally, heat waves account for dramatic increases in mortality and morbidity; however, there is increasing awareness that day-to-day increases in temperature contribute to a significant risk of heat-related morbidity and mortality (HRMM) that over one or more warm seasons may exceed the public health burden of heat waves. Climate change has already and will continue to increase both average ambient temperatures and the frequency and intensity of excursions above those averages (i.e., heat waves or extreme heat events) and will thereby lead directly and indirectly to amplification of the risk of HRMM. This chapter provides a brief synopsis of our current knowledge about thermoregulation, thermotolerance and the pathophysiology of heat stroke, and the multiple determinants of health and illness that influence the risk of HRMM and that collectively define vulnerability. A particular focus is on two vulnerable populations, older adults and children. An Environmental Health Multiple-Determinant Model of Vulnerability is presented as a conceptual framework to integrate that knowledge, with the intent of providing a tool that can facilitate compilation and translation of the information to interventions and adaptation strategies relevant at the individual level and/or subpopulation and population levels and at one or more geopolitical scales in developing and/or developed nations. Three overarching strategies for HRMM risk reduction are discussed, including Extreme Heat Event and Warm Season Heat Preparedness and Response Action Plans, Promote Good Health and Access to Quality Healthcare (reduces risk and increases resiliency), and Reduce/Manage Potential Exposure(s) (individual, community) to Ambient Heat and Other Physical Environmental Stressors. A key focus of this chapter is on integration and translation of knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGlobal Climate Change and Public Health
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9781461484172
ISBN (Print)9781461484165
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Climate change and heat waves
  • Heat stroke
  • Heat waves and climate change
  • Heat-related morbidity and mortality
  • Public health burden of heat waves
  • Rising temperatures in climate change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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