Summer is in full swing! Last year’s “heat dome” reminded us of the intersections among environment, weather, social and economic context including housing status and type, behavior patterns including ownership of pets, exposure pathways, and health outcomes. Extreme heat kills more Americans than any other weather event, but the risks are not the same for everyone. Heat can particularly negatively affect children, people who work outside, older adults, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions including those affecting their heart and lung functions.
Our experience with COVID (infection, testing, vaccines, and treatment) has emphasized that disparities are considerable among our members, and we are most likely to serve them well by partnering with counties, local public health, community-based organizations, and health delivery systems. Preparing for and responding to climate-related threats can take a page from that experience! As we consider how to address the risks of the coming summer weather, we must recognize that low-income and communities of color are particularly vulnerable.
Health Share’s collaborative partners have initiated a process for communication, social media/website postings, and notifications about service disruptions in case of weather events. A dashboard is planned for the identification of especially vulnerable groups and how to be in contact with them before and during specific weather events. County and public health partners are also engaged in this topic, as it far transcends any particular segment of the population and is bound to affect everyone.
We encourage you to do a self-assessment of risks for heat-related health issues: high temperature and humidity, direct sunlight, limited air movement, physical exertion, dehydration, some medications, pregnancy, and heart, lung, and kidney conditions. Also, think about electricity: find cooling centers and transportation ahead of time, in case the power goes out, and assess your surroundings for Durable Medical Equipment power needs.
Stay cool, Health Share!