Heatwave and health impact research: A global review

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Abstract

Background:

Observed increases in the frequency and intensity of heatwave events, together with the projected acceleration of these events worldwide, has led to a rapid expansion in research on the health impacts of extreme heat.

Objective:

To examine how research on heatwaves and their health-related impact is distributed globally.

Methods:

A systematic review was undertaken. Four online databases were searched for articles examining links between specific historical heatwave events and their impact on mortality or morbidity. The locations of these events were mapped at a global scale, and compared to other known characteristics that influence heat-related illness and death.

Results:

When examining the location of heatwave and health impact research worldwide, studies were concentrated on mid-latitude, high-income countries of low- to medium-population density. Regions projected to experience the most extreme heatwaves in the future were not represented. Furthermore, the majority of studies examined mortality as a key indicator of population-wide impact, rather than the more sensitive indicator of morbidity.

Conclusion:

While global heatwave and health impact research is prolific in some regions, the global population most at risk of death and illness from extreme heat is under-represented. Heatwave and health impact research is needed in regions where this impact is expected to be most severe.

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