Study: Heat death risk intervention tailoring should not stop at city level

by Theleaders-Online | September 7, 2021 1:00 am

SUZHOU, China, Sept. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — An innovative study by researchers at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Harvard University and City University of Hong Kong sheds light on how risk factors for heat-related death can vary at city, city-region and neighbourhood levels.

Map of heat-related mortality risk, Hong Kong[1]
Map of heat-related mortality risk, Hong Kong

In urban planning, heat mitigation and climate change strategies too often use a top-down approach that does not effectively address specific conditions at all these levels, says Dr Jinglu Song of XJTLU.

After analysing factors contributing to heat-related death at different spatial scales, the study found a localised, spatial scale approach is more effective. (Spatial scale categorises the size of a space in which something occurs.) The research considered factors that include age, education, socioeconomic status, workplace, birthplace and environmental variables.

Beyond top-down interventions

Extreme heat is a leading cause of weather-related human mortality throughout much of the world, posing a significant burden when developing healthy and sustainable cities. The study provides a framework for professionals such as geographers, urban planners, policymakers, environmental scientists and epidemiologists to better understand the spatial-scale dependent risk factors of heat-related mortality, Dr Song says.

“Most cities in the Chinese mainland have a problem similar to Hong Kong—they have developed top-down interventions,” Dr Song says. “They don’t consider much of a hierarchical strategy and rarely include site-specific action plans. Some measures or interventions should not only be the responsibility of the provincial or municipal governments. They also need to consider community-oriented adaptive strategies.”

Measuring risk factors

Risks for heat-related death come from factors that might be only obvious at specific sites.

The researchers found that age and socioeconomic status significantly influence risk across a city, Dr Song explains.

Other risk factors exhibit more localised contributions to heat-related mortality, such as thermal environment and low income. Those findings suggest each region needs to be assessed individually to achieve answers that address local conditions, Dr Song says.

The study, ‘Spatial-scale dependent risk factors of heat-related mortality: A multiscale geographically weighted regression analysis’, was published in the Elsevier journal Sustainable Cities and Society.

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