EuroHEAT - Improving public health responses to weather extremes, in particular to heat-waves

Background and Goals

The background to the project are European and international decisions that call for a reduction in weather and climate related health burdens. In addition, the aim is to achieve greater coordination and cooperation between players in public healthcare, national and international meteorological offices and agencies, emergency services and civil society. This can be achieved by developing local, regional, national and European measures to speed up sharing of relevant information, data and findings, and allow early warning systems to be developed.

The objectives are:

  1. Epidemiological assessment of the health effects of heat waves between 1990 and 2003,
  2. Identification of synergies between air pollution, risk determinants and systems for rapid identification of health effects,
  3. Development of a climate information tool with measures for heat protection in buildings,
  4. Assessment of the response capacity of the health system, and
  5. Carrying out health promotion activities, particularly for the older population.

Content time

Research area/region

  • Europe

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

Based on climate projections from the 3rd IPCC situation report (2001). In particular, the changed probabilities of heat waves are analysed.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Heat waves
  • Higher average temperatures
Further Parameters 

Increasing weather and climate variability, alongside changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme temperatures

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

The focus is on analysis of the climate effects of heat waves on human health and the healthcare system.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Approach and results 

On the one hand, particularly vulnerable population groups are analysed and on the other hand the adaptation and response capacity of the healthcare system. Vulnerability is defined in an IPCC sense, determined by the factors exposure, sensitivity and adaptation capacity.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Response plans for heat waves defining the spans and procedures for how those responsible in healthcare can response to extremely hot days. In the project, selected examples of these response plans are complied:

  •  United Kingdom heat wave plan (2007),
  •  Spanish action plan for health protection in heat waves,
  •  Catalonian (Spain) action plan for prevention of health effects due to heat waves (May 2006),
  •  Portuguese heat response plan,
  •  Swiss heat and ozone warning system,
  •  Italian plan describing the compilation and evaluation of information on the assessment of local interactions between heat effects and mortality or morbidity, and providing guidelines for mobilisation of care activities during periods of extreme heat,
  •  French plan describing national and regional actions to prepare for heat waves and setting out the composition of a crisis command centre for managing intervention during heat emergencies.

The objective is to set up and establish warning systems for periods of extreme heat to protect the population. To achieve this, a map of heat wave probabilities is produced for European countries. This shows the probabilities of heat waves, allowing an estimate to be made as to whether a heat event is imminent. The probabilities of heat waves shown on the map are average probabilities for a region, and there may be significant local differences due to significant differences in altitude within a region or on the coast. This heat information is not intended to replace national heat warning systems, but to supplement it with regional heat forecasts.

Time horizon
  • 2071–2100 (far future)

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Legal aspects 



Funding / Financing 

European Commission

Project management 

World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe, Global change and health programme


Partnerinstitution in Germany: German Meteorological Service (DWD)


WHO - World Health Organization
European Centre for Environment and Health,
Rome Division
Via Francesco Crispi 10
I-00187 Rom

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Fields of action:
 human health and care