The meeting at the University of Arizona's Washington, D.C. Center was the Global Heat Health Information Network's first in-person gathering since the pandemic.
As the world continues to heat up due to climate change, the occurrence of extreme heat events and the threats posed to human beings as a result of those events are on the rise.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 9,235 people are hospitalized and 702 people die each year as a result of heat in the U.S. alone. An estimated 356,000 heat-related deaths occurred worldwide in 2019, and we can expect those numbers to increase as heat waves become more common, more intense and longer in duration as time goes on.
Established by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2016, the Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN) is a group of climate, health, and heat experts from around the world that are taking a critical look at how communities can mitigate and manage the inevitable increase in extreme heat events in an effort to better protect global populations from the negative health effects of increased heat.
GHHIN Experts Meet in Person at UArizona Washington, D.C. Center
In its first in-person gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic, GHHIN invited a group of experts on heat and heat governance to the University of Arizona’s Washington, D.C. Center for a three-day event in late February and early March of this year.
The meeting was the first GHHIN event held in the U.S. with the previous two meetings of the organization thus far having taken place in Hong Kong, China in 2018 and Geneva, Switzerland in January 2020.
Hosted by Udall Center Faculty Research Associate and Assistant Professor at the UArizona College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture, Ladd Keith, and supported by the UArizona Office of Research, Innovation and Impact, this year’s session included the GHHIN Management Committee meeting, an expert roundtable discussion on the global implementation of early warning systems for excessive heat, as well as the organization’s inaugural Heat Health Open Forum on global heat realities and potential solutions to problems associated with extreme heat and a networking reception.
The GHHIN Management Committee includes a team of international academics and research professionals; directors and staff from WHO and WMO; and representatives from national agencies like the CDC and NOAA in the U.S., as well as their organizational counterparts from several countries around the world. Additional heat health experts from government, academia, NGOs and the private sector attended discussion sessions and the open forum during the three-day event.
Keith says that interest in addressing heat health from high-level government officials around the world increases each year and that the timing is right to pay serious attention to the threats posed to humanity by extreme heat. “All of the evidence indicates that this is one of humanity’s greatest threats going forward,” says Keith.
Of course, ensuring that governments around the world are prepared to deal with the challenges posed by extreme heat events – especially in developing nations and the Global South, where extreme heat events are likely to be particularly problematic – will require additional discussions, studies and investment in infrastructure in the coming years.
To this end, Keith says that GHHIN will continue to “build up momentum” for their work while world leaders are tuned in. “Those are the folks we want in the room [for these discussions],” he says.
GHHIN is currently in the process of preparing a summary report detailing the takeaways from the meeting in D.C. and is scheduling additional future meetings to continue their progress on addressing global heat-health concerns.