Heatwaves and public health in Europe

Eur J Public Health. 2006 Dec;16(6):592-9. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckl049. Epub 2006 Apr 27.


Public health measures need to be implemented to prevent heat-related illness and mortality in the community and in institutions that care for elderly or vulnerable people. Heat health warning systems (HHWS) link public health actions to meteorological forecasts of dangerous weather. Such systems are being implemented in Europe in the absence of strong evidence of the effectiveness of specific measures in reducing heatwave mortality or morbidity. Passive dissemination of heat avoidance advice is likely to be ineffective given the current knowledge of high-risk groups. HHWS should be linked to the active identification and care of high-risk individuals. The systems require clear lines of responsibility for the multiple agencies involved (including the weather service, and the local health and social care agencies). Other health interventions are necessary in relation to improved housing, and the care of the elderly at home and vulnerable people in institutions. European countries need to learn from each other how to prepare for and effectively cope with heatwaves in the future. Including evaluation criteria in the design of heatwave early warning systems will help ensure effective and efficient system operation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Medical Service Communication Systems / organization & administration
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Health Education / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Services Research
  • Heat Stroke* / etiology
  • Heat Stroke* / mortality
  • Heat Stroke* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Interinstitutional Relations
  • International Cooperation
  • Meteorological Concepts
  • Population Surveillance
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Public Health Informatics / organization & administration*
  • Public Health Practice*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors