When Temps Rise, So Do Medical Risks. Should Doctors and Nurses Talk More About Heat?

by | Sep 1, 2023 | Health

An important email appeared in the inboxes of a small group of health care workers north of Boston as this summer started. It warned that local temperatures were rising into the 80s.

An 80-plus-degree day is not sizzling by Phoenix standards. Even in Boston, it wasn’t high enough to trigger an official heat warning for the wider public.

But research has shown that those temperatures, coming so early in June, would likely drive up the number of heat-related hospital visits and deaths across the Boston region.

The targeted email alert the doctors and nurses at Cambridge Health Alliance in Somerville, Massachusetts, got that day is part of a pilot project run by the nonprofit Climate Central and Harvard University’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, known as C-CHANGE.

Medical clinicians based at 12 community-based clinics in seven states — California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin — are receiving these alerts.

At each location, the first email alert of the season was triggered when local temperatures reached the 90th percentile for that community. In a suburb of Portland, Oregon, that happened on May 14 during a springtime heat wave. In Houston, that occurred in early June.

A second email alert went out when forecasts indicated the thermometer would reach the 95th percentile. For Cambridge Health Alliance primary care physician Rebecca Rogers, that second alert arrived on July 6, when the high hit 87 degrees.

The emails remind Rogers and other clinici …

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