State To Study Public Health Effects of Extreme Heat
State and federal officials on Wednesday announced a $4.5 million, five-year study to assess the effects of global warming on heat-related fatalities and hospital visits, the San Jose Mercury News reports. More than 160 people have died as a result of a heat wave that swept California from July 17 through 29, according to an Associated Press survey of county health officers (Rogers, San Jose Mercury News, 8/3).
The Department of Health Services will track deaths and illnesses caused by hot weather and other environmental hazards and use the results to develop new policies. The research also will focus on how heat-related illnesses are affected by the development boom in inland regions, where temperatures can reach up to 20 degrees higher than costal regions.
State officials are considering classifying heat emergencies the same way they do other natural disasters and developing an emergency response plan for them. Officials said they are concerned that hospitals and emergency services in hotter regions are not prepared to handle influxes of patients seeking treatment for heat-related illnesses.
Paul English, an environmental health investigator at DHS who will oversee the study, said the results will be included in a national databank on the public health effects of global warming (Covarrubias, Los Angeles Times, 8/3). English said the study results also will be used to issue health alerts, increase hospital staffing levels and intensify efforts to check on elderly people during the hottest days.
The study will be funded by CDC and conducted in conjunction with DHS, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Environmental Protection Agency (San Jose Mercury News, 8/3).