Heat stress-related illness attributed to the changing climate, particularly the more frequent extreme high temperatures, is becoming a theme of public concern, especially in the most vulnerable regions, such as the African continent. Knowledge of the existing research directions and gaps on heat stress and human health is vital for informing future strategic research foci capable of influencing policy development, planning, adaptation, and mitigation efforts. In this regard, a bibliometric analysis was conducted, with an emphasis on Africa, to assess regional research contributions to heat stress impacts on human health. The goals of the study were to review publication growth and patterns of the scientific publications and to identify key players (especially collaborating institutions and countries) and the evolution of research themes on the African continent, while paying attention to global trends and emergent hot topics and methodology of heat stress research. Using the Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus core collection databases, a structured keyword search was undertaken, which yielded 463 and 58 research publications from around the world and Africa, respectively. The retrieved scientific documents, published between 1968 and 2020, were analyzed and visualized using a bibliometric analysis technique and the VOSviewer software tool. The results indicate low statistics and slow scientific growth in publication output, with the highest peak having been reached in 2018, resulting in 13 scientific publications. While global research collaborations are successfully reflected in the literature, there is a considerable gap in understanding heat stress and related collaborations between African countries and international institutions. The review study has identified key opportunities that can benefit Africa through the expansion of the scope of heat stress and human health research on the continent. These opportunities can be achieved by closing the following research gaps: (1) vulnerability assessments within demographic classes, such as the elderly, (2) personal exposure and associated risks, (3) Urban Heat Island (UHI) evaluation for urban environments, and (4) heat adaptation research, which will enable informed and targeted preventive actions that will limit future heat health impacts. The authors opine that the pursuit of such studies will be most impactful if the current knowledge gaps are bridged through transdisciplinary research supported by local, regional, and international collaborators.
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