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      Heat Stress and Public Health: A Critical Review

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      Annual Review of Public Health

      Annual Reviews

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          Abstract

          Heat is an environmental and occupational hazard. The prevention of deaths in the community caused by extreme high temperatures (heat waves) is now an issue of public health concern. The risk of heat-related mortality increases with natural aging, but persons with particular social and/or physical vulnerability are also at risk. Important differences in vulnerability exist between populations, depending on climate, culture, infrastructure (housing), and other factors. Public health measures include health promotion and heat wave warning systems, but the effectiveness of acute measures in response to heat waves has not yet been formally evaluated. Climate change will increase the frequency and the intensity of heat waves, and a range of measures, including improvements to housing, management of chronic diseases, and institutional care of the elderly and the vulnerable, will need to be developed to reduce health impacts.

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          Most cited references 57

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          Climate Change 2007

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            Heat-related and cold-related deaths in England and Wales: who is at risk?

            Despite the high burden from exposure to both hot and cold weather each year in England and Wales, there has been relatively little investigation on who is most at risk, resulting in uncertainties in informing government interventions. To determine the subgroups of the population that are most vulnerable to heat-related and cold-related mortality. Ecological time-series study of daily mortality in all regions of England and Wales between 1993 and 2003, with postcode linkage of individual deaths to a UK database of all care and nursing homes, and 2001 UK census small-area indicators. A risk of mortality was observed for both heat and cold exposure in all regions, with the strongest heat effects in London and strongest cold effects in the Eastern region. For all regions, a mean relative risk of 1.03 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02 to 1.03) was estimated per degree increase above the heat threshold, defined as the 95th centile of the temperature distribution in each region, and 1.06 (95% CI 1.05 to 1.06) per degree decrease below the cold threshold (set at the 5th centile). Elderly people, particularly those in nursing and care homes, were most vulnerable. The greatest risk of heat mortality was observed for respiratory and external causes, and in women, which remained after control for age. Vulnerability to either heat or cold was not modified by deprivation, except in rural populations where cold effects were slightly stronger in more deprived areas. Interventions to reduce vulnerability to both hot and cold weather should target all elderly people. Specific interventions should also be developed for people in nursing and care homes as heat illness is easily preventable.
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              Models for the relationship between ambient temperature and daily mortality.

              Ambient temperature is an important determinant of daily mortality that is of interest both in its own right and as a confounder of other determinants investigated using time-series regressions, in particular, air pollution. The temperature-mortality relationship is often found to be substantially nonlinear and to persist (but change shape) with increasing lag. We review and extend models for such nonlinear multilag forms. Popular models for mortality by temperature at given lag include polynomial and natural cubic spline curves, and the simple but more easily interpreted linear thresholds model, comprising linear relationships for temperatures below and above thresholds and a flat middle section. Most published analyses that have allowed the relationship to persist over multiple lags have done so by assuming that spline or threshold models apply to mean temperature in several lag strata (e.g., lags 0-1, 2-6, and 7-13). However, more flexible models are possible, and a modeling framework using products of basis functions ("cross-basis" functions) suggests a wide range, some used previously and some new. These allow for stepped or smooth changes in the model coefficients as lags increase. Applying a range of models to data from London suggest evidence for relationships up to at least 2 weeks' lag, with smooth models fitting best but lag-stratified threshold models allowing the most direct interpretation. A wide range of multilag nonlinear temperature-mortality relationships can be modeled. More awareness of options should improve investigation of these relationships and help control for confounding by them.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annual Review of Public Health
                Annu. Rev. Public Health
                Annual Reviews
                0163-7525
                1545-2093
                April 2008
                April 2008
                : 29
                : 1
                : 41-55
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Public and Environmental Health Research Unit (PEHRU), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT, United Kingdom; email: ,
                Article
                10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.020907.090843
                18031221
                © 2008

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