A Cross-Sectional, Randomized Cluster Sample Survey of Household Vulnerability to Extreme Heat among Slum Dwellers in Ahmedabad, India

A Cross-Sectional, Randomized Cluster Sample Survey of Household Vulnerability to Extreme Heat among Slum Dwellers in Ahmedabad, India

With climate change predicted to cause an increase in extreme temperatures in India, there is a significant risk that heat-waves, which already cause significant public health issues including thousands of deaths, could get considerably more dangerous. This study, published in the open access International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, seeks to address a knowledge gap regarding the identification of vulnerability indicators among slum-dwellers to heat-related health issues. It is hoped that this study will facilitate public health preparedness through the assessment of factors affecting vulnerability.

The study consisted of a quantitative analysis consisting of randomised household surveys (300 in total) conducted by a team of assessors, with cooperation from public health officials. A total of 13 areas were selected for study in the city of Ahmedabad, consisting primarily of the largest slums in each of the city zones. The framework used for assessing heat vulnerability consisted of four criteria: heat hazard, that is the nature of the climatic event; amount of individual exposure, including at work; susceptibility, including demographic, medical, and social network information; and finally adaptive capacity.

The authors note multiple qualifications to the study: potential biases, possible instances of under- and over-reporting figures, cultural and translation issues, areas which require more research, and the limitations of accurately quantifying complex systems. Nevertheless, significant trends and patterns emerge from the analysis of the data. Symptoms of heat exposure were reported by around one-fifth of respondents, with severe heat illness reported by approximately 1 per cent. Factors found to increase risk of heat-related symptoms and illnesses include being over sixty years of age, working outdoors, having limited access to water and/or information, and having pre-existing medical conditions. Based on these findings, the authors conclude that working with community health workers to disseminate information, educating healthcare providers to increase diagnosis, treatment, and anticipatory guidance, and establishing a heat-health tracking system could all help reduce vulnerability of slum-dwellers. Meanwhile, future research should assess exposure-outcome associations, and focus on intervention implementation and evaluation.

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