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Individual and Public-Program Adaptation: Coping with Heat Waves in Five Cities in Canada
AREC, 2200 Symons Hall, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
School of Biological Sciences and Institute for a Sustainable World, Queen’s University Belfast, Medical Biology Centre, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Clark B-320, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 September 2011; in revised form: 17 November 2011 / Accepted: 1 December 2011 / Published: 16 December 2011
Abstract: Heat Alert and Response Systems (HARS) are currently undergoing testing and implementation in Canada. These programs seek to reduce the adverse health effects of heat waves on human health by issuing weather forecasts and warnings, informing individuals about possible protections from excessive heat, and providing such protections to vulnerable subpopulations and individuals at risk. For these programs to be designed effectively, it is important to know how individuals perceive the heat, what their experience with heat-related illness is, how they protect themselves from excessive heat, and how they acquire information about such protections. In September 2010, we conducted a survey of households in 5 cities in Canada to study these issues. At the time of the survey, these cities had not implemented heat outreach and response systems. The study results indicate that individuals’ recollections of recent heat wave events were generally accurate. About 21% of the sample reported feeling unwell during the most recent heat spell, but these illnesses were generally minor. Only in 25 cases out of 243, these illnesses were confirmed or diagnosed by a health care professional. The rate at which our respondents reported heat-related illnesses was higher among those with cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, was higher among younger respondents and bore no relationship with the availability of air conditioning at home. Most of the respondents indicated that they would not dismiss themselves as “not at risk” and that they would cope with excessive heat by staying in air conditioned environments and keeping well hydrated. Despite the absence of heat outreach and education programs in their city, our respondents at least a rough idea of how to take care of themselves. The presence of air conditioning and knowledge of cooling centers is location-specific, which provides opportunities for targeting HARS interventions.
Keywords: Heat Alert Response Systems (HARS); Heat/Health Watch/Warning Systems (HHWW); excessive heat; heat-related illness
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Alberini, A.; Gans, W.; Alhassan, M. Individual and Public-Program Adaptation: Coping with Heat Waves in Five Cities in Canada. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8, 4679-4701.
Alberini A, Gans W, Alhassan M. Individual and Public-Program Adaptation: Coping with Heat Waves in Five Cities in Canada. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2011; 8(12):4679-4701.
Alberini, Anna; Gans, Will; Alhassan, Mustapha. 2011. "Individual and Public-Program Adaptation: Coping with Heat Waves in Five Cities in Canada." Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 8, no. 12: 4679-4701.