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Are European countries prepared for the next big heat-wave?

Martin-Immanuel Bittner, Eva Franziska Matthies, Dafina Dalbokova, Bettina Menne
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckt121 615-619 First published online: 5 October 2013

Abstract

Background: Heat-waves present severe dangers to populations’ health. Due to climate change, an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat-waves is to be expected. Public health measures to prevent negative health effects have been developed in several member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region over the past decade. Methods: This study presents the first comprehensive assessment of the development of heat preparedness planning in WHO European Region member states, using a unique methodology based on criteria developed and pre-tested by the WHO. This indicator-based approach is based on eight core elements that are crucial components of heat-health action plans. Results: Of 53 member states of the WHO European Region, 51 countries were included in the evaluation. Results show that 18 countries have developed heat-health action plans, whereas 33 others have not. The plans developed so far vary in the degree of comprehensiveness with regard to the core elements. Gaps in terms of plan coverage have predominantly been identified in the areas of (intersectorial) long-term measures, surveillance and plan evaluation. Conclusions: For better preparedness, it can be advocated for further improving, developing and implementing heat-wave preparedness planning and response in European countries. A focus should be placed on developing all elements and strong intersectorial coordination and cooperation as well as the successful implementation of surveillance and evaluation measures.

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