General Population Knowledge about Extreme Heat: A Cross-Sectional Survey in Lisbon and Madrid

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Jan 28;14(2):122. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14020122.


Extreme heat is associated with an increased mortality and morbidity. National heat plans have been implemented to minimize the effect of extreme heat. The population's awareness and knowledge of national heat plans and extreme heat is essential to improve the community's behavior and adaptation. A general population survey was conducted in Lisbon and in Madrid to assess this knowledge. We used a questionnaire to interview passers-by. Results were compared between Lisbon and Madrid and between locals and foreigners, using Pearson Chi-square tests and Fisher's exact test. We conducted 260 interviews in six locations of different socio-economic backgrounds in each city. The most frequently mentioned extreme heat-related risk groups were the elderly (79.2%), children (49.6%) and babies (21.5%). The most frequently reported protective measures were increased fluid intake (73.1%) and avoiding exposure to the sun (50.8%). Knowledge about the heat plan was higher in Lisbon (37.2%) than in Madrid (25.2%) (p-value = 0.03). Foreigners had less knowledge of risk groups compared to locals. Heat plans were not widely known in Madrid and Lisbon. Nonetheless, knowledge of practical concepts to face extreme heat, such as certain risk groups and protective measures, was found. Our results were similar to comparable surveys where specific respondents' groups were identified as less knowledgeable. This highlighted the importance of addressing these groups when communicating public health messages on heat. Foreigners should be specifically targeted to increase their awareness.

Keywords: extreme weather events; population health; public health policy and practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cities*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Extreme Heat / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Health Education / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Portugal
  • Public Health / education*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Spain
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*