Are heat warning systems effective?

Toloo, Ghasem (Sam), FitzGerald, Gerard, Aitken, Peter, Verrall, Kenneth, and Tong, Shilu (2013) Are heat warning systems effective? Environmental Health, 12 (1). 27. pp. 1-4.

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Heatwaves are associated with significant health risks particularly among vulnerable groups. To minimize these risks, heat warning systems have been implemented. The question therefore is how effective these systems are in saving lives and reducing heat-related harm. We systematically searched and reviewed 15 studies which examined this. Six studies asserted that fewer people died of excessive heat after the implementation of heat warning systems. Demand for ambulance decreased following the implementation of these systems. One study also estimated the costs of running heat warning systems at US$210,000 compared to the US$468 million benefits of saving 117 lives. The remaining eight studies investigated people's response to heat warning systems and taking appropriate actions against heat harms. Perceived threat of heat dangers emerged as the main factor related to heeding the warnings and taking proper actions. However, barriers, such as costs of running air-conditioners, were of significant concern, particularly to the poor. The weight of the evidence suggests that heat warning systems are effective in reducing mortality and, potentially, morbidity. However, their effectiveness may be mediated by cognitive, emotive and socio-demographic characteristics. More research is urgently required into the cost-effectiveness of heat warning systems' measures and improving the utilization of the services.

Item ID: 28305
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1476-069X
Keywords: heat warning system; effectiveness; mortality; morbidity; health beliefs; health service utilization
Additional Information:

© 2013 Toloo et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Queensland Department of Environment and Resources Management, Queensland Health, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation (QEMRF), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Linkage grant LP882699, QEMRF Noel Stevenson Fellowship, NHMRC research fellowship #553043
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2013 05:29
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111705 Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety @ 40%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111706 Epidemiology @ 30%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111716 Preventive Medicine @ 30%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920407 Health Protection and/or Disaster Response @ 60%
92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920299 Health and Support Services not elsewhere classified @ 40%
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