Heat and Health Clinics

Climate Central helps health clinics across U.S. anticipate and respond to extreme heat

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Heat is the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. But Climate Central is helping the patients and practitioners at health clinics across the country are better prepared to cope with the increase in dangerous heat resulting from climate change.

Climate Central, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, and Americares partnered on a pilot program to provide heat-related health toolkits and localized heat alerts to clinics working with vulnerable populations.

Building on Climate Central’s ground-breaking climate research and alert systems, the pilot has helped 17 clinics anticipate and respond to extreme heat.

The San José Clinic in Houston, Texas, is one of the clinics that is already benefiting. “This program alleviates a huge burden for charity clinics like us,” says Adlia Ebeid, PharmD, BC-ADM, RPh, chief clinical officer of San José Clinic. “We didn’t have to worry about collecting the information for the toolkits ourselves or about keeping up with the weather on top of everything else. We’ve been able to make better decisions, and it’s impacted the health of our patients and the health of our clinic.”

San José Clinic serves uninsured patients with limited access to care. Many of San José’s patients, like countless other vulnerable people across the country, lack air conditioning, have medical conditions, live in urban heat zones, or work in outdoor jobs, putting them at greater risk as the world warms.

Sadly, prolonged periods of hot weather are associated not only with increased mortality, but also with hospitalization, emergency department utilization, and other adverse health outcomes. With advanced warning about dangerous heat days, clinics can take steps like distributing electrolyte packets and providing critical alerts to patients about medications that could dehydrate them more quickly.

“Right off the bat, the program really opened our eyes to the impact of climate equity,” explains Dr. Ebeid. “For years we’ve been trying to enhance health equity. Now we’re realizing the impact of climate equity on health equity.”

Climate Central is helping society understand, address, and avert the worst consequences of climate change—from the dangers of extreme weather to the challenges of sea level rise. It’s important work that saves lives.

“There’s so much more to be done,” observes Dr. Ebeid. “This project brought that to the surface.”