Home' Australian Pharmacist : February 2013 Contents 18 Australian Pharmacist February 2013 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Heatwaves will impact health
Health authorities will need to do more
to minimise the impacts of heatwaves on
our health services.
A Charles Sturt
believes this to be
the case, especially
if the recent trend
of rising average
more hot days continues as projected.
Professor Kevin Parton was part of a
team that investigated the effects of heat
waves in Adelaide and Perth -- both are
particularly prone to hot, dry conditions.
'We compared hospital and ambulance
records from these cities with daily
variations in temperatures from Perth
and Adelaide between 1993 and
2009," said Professor Parton, who is an
adjunct professor with the CSU's Faculty
'We were interested in the definition of
a heatwave in terms of people's health.
We were looking for different temperature
thresholds in different locations and for
'In Adelaide, we found that the daily
maximum temperature of 30oC was
the threshold at which we saw more
deaths from heat related stress. At 34oC,
we started to see more emergency
department presentations. These
presentations increased up to six times
when we reached 44oC. The maximum
temperature threshold for increases
in ambulance call-outs was 26oC, with
5% more call-outs at 36oC,' he said
'In Perth, heatwave days, where there
were three of more days over 35oC,
showed increases in daily mortality and
emergency department presentations
while total hospital admissions decreased.
We found that in Perth the daily threshold
above which there were more deaths was
Professor Parton said public health
interventions will be increasingly
important to minimise the adverse health
impacts of hot weather in Perth and
Adelaide, particularly if rising average
temperature trends and more hot days
continue as predicted.
'Clearly there are different critical
temperatures in different locations.
Critical temperatures at which health
authorities should be concerned would
probably be lower for more temperate
locations such as Hobart,' he said.
The research has had an
'Health authorities in Adelaide and
Perth are planning to make more
resources available around these
threshold temperatures. We also need to
continue health messages that alert our
communities to the dangers of heatwave
conditions,' Professor Parton said.
Long life poor health
Around the world people are living longer
but often with many years of compromised
health The Global Burden of Disease Study
2010 (GBD 2010), has found.
The study was co-authored by the Head
of The University of Queensland's School
of Population Health, Professor Alan
Lopez, and the Director for the Institute
for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)
at the University of Washington, Dr
GBD 2010 is the world's largest ever
investigation of global health and
involved 1,000 collaborators over five
years. It examined 291 conditions and 67
risk factors for 21 global regions.
Professor Lopez said that the study's
update was driven by need.
'We know that dozens of countries have
taken the methodology of GBD and
applied it to their own situation to better
inform local health planning and policies.
However, we knew we could improve it.
'We knew we needed to update our
20-year-old estimates and make use
of today's better methods, enhanced
availability of data and increased
expertise and there was a huge demand
'Studies such as this which provide us
with comprehensive and reliable health
information are essential if countries are
to be better informed about their health
priorities and how these are changing.'
The findings include:
• High blood pressure is the world's
leading cause of mortality and
• It is no longer just the rich world's
problem, with a high salt diet seeing the
issue surface in poor countries as well.
• The second biggest burden on world
health is tobacco smoking, which is
falling in the developed world but
rising in the developing world.
• People are living longer all
over the world -- especially in
• Life expectancy in Australia has risen
so much since 1990 that the country
now has among the 10 longest life
expectancies in the world for both
women and men.
• The years that people are living with
a disability is growing, particularly in
• The increase in disability has
largely been driven by increases in
population and population ageing,
and has important implications for
• Child mortality is down, even in
sub-Saharan Africa and other poor
countries, but much less progress has
been made in preventing death among
young adults, particularly men, who are
dying, mostly due to violence, injuries,
suicide and HIV/AIDS.
• Child malnutrition has decreased, as
has the burden of disease from unsafe
water and sanitation, showing global
health progress has been made.
• But while malnutrition is down, GBD 2010
found that rising rates of obesity and
other lifestyle-related risk factors were
becoming the dominant forces in disease.
• Dietary risk factors and physical
inactivity collectively caused 10% of the
The latest findings update the original
GBD 1990, which was the first study
to measure not just mortality, but the
impact of disease and years lived with
disability. It is one of the world's most
cited investigations and has influenced
health policies and budgets around
the globe. GBD 2010 was funded by the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
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