Public health in the course of climate change: Master plan for heat waves

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Building-related cooling measures such as vertical or external blinds are among the recommendations
Source: hanohiki / Fotolia

High temperatures and heat waves are adding up to public health problems – and the impact of climate change is becoming more noticeable also in Germany. The federal states and local authorities can draft and implement heat wave action plans to protect public health during these longer periods of hot weather. The German Environment Agency has developed a master plan.

Germany experienced particularly long and pronounced heat waves in 2003, 2010 and 2015. Rising temperatures are also causing greater health risks. Heat can be a heavy stress factor and has resulted in an increase of heat-related illnesses and deaths in recent years. There were some 7000 deaths in Germany alone during the 2003 heat wave, in addition to numerous heat-related illnesses tied to dehydration, heat stroke, and cardiovascular diseases. 

The BMUB-led Federal/Länder Ad hoc Working Group on adaptation to the impacts of climate change in the health sector (Gesundheitliche Anpassung an die Folgen des Klimawandels -GAK) compiled recommendations for action to help state and local authorities draw up heat action plans to protect human health. They can be considered a master plan for ensuring better protection of the public and their health during long periods of high summertime temperatures. The aim is to improve communication between players, for example in hospitals and kindergartens. The plan includes both short-term and long-term measures such as: 

  • Coordinated communication of information, tips, recommendations for different segments of the population during hot weather episodes; 
  • Establishment of neighbourhood help organisations for the active support of vulnerable population groups;  
  • Installation of building-related cooling measures (shutters, awnings und external blinds);
  • Architecture, urban planning and building design adapted to extreme heat. 

The recommendations for action by the German Environment Agency were drawn up on behalf of the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) in collaboration with many experts from various disciplines. 

Umweltbundesamt Headquarters

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

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 Heat waves  climate change  public health