More and more people worldwide are exposed to heat waves. In 2017, some additional 157 million people experienced at least one day of heat wave as compared to 2000, according to the latest issue of “The Lancet Countdown” dedicated to health aspects of climate change. In the absence of strong measures, our health care systems could be seriously harmed.
“Rising temperatures expose millions of citizens around the world to an unacceptably high health risk,” Dr. Kris Murray said during the presentation of the report on Wednesday.
According to the study, heat waves affect productivity negatively. Globally, 153 billion work hours were lost in 2017 due to extreme temperatures.
In Europe, “last summer’s heat wave is only a foretaste of what awaits us in the future, threatening especially the elderly and vulnerable people living in urban areas,” Dr. Martin Balzan, environmental health rapporteur of the Standing Committee of European doctors (CPME), warns.
Within the Union, the mortality rate related to extreme heat is liable to increase by 1 to 4% per additional degree, which means about 30,000 more deaths per year by 2030, and between 50,000 and 110,000 by 2080, the report said.
“As a physician, I worry about the increasing number of patients who will need care for diseases related to global warming,” Dr. Helen Rossinot, the study’s lead author of the section on recommendations, adds.
In the absence of strong measures, “global warming threatens the sustainability of our health care systems,” she says. “Each Member State must develop a national plan focused on climate and health, and include the global warming effects in the curricula of future health professionals,” Dr. Rossinot says. Among other measures, it would also be judicious to “reduce all air pollution sources in order to minimize its effects on human health, and to stop the use of coal as an energy source as soon as possible,” she adds.
The Brussels Times