Washington, D.C. — Dangerously high summer temperatures have always posed a risk to the health of many Americans, but climate change has increased the number of hot summer days and periods of extreme heat. A new CAP and Virginia Commonwealth University report estimates that extreme heat will cost $1 billion in U.S. health care costs every summer. As summers bring more intense heat, more Americans will experience health complications and require medical care. This new report analyzes data from weather stations and Virginia insurance claims data to estimate the impact extreme heat will have on Virginia and the rest of the nation. Specifically, estimates from the report show that extreme heat will be responsible for nearly 235,000 emergency department visits and more than 56,000 additional hospital admissions across the country.
Extreme heat is an even greater threat for vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities, communities of color, and urban “heat island” neighborhoods. This report outlines key policy recommendations to address the dangerous and costly impacts of extreme heat. Those recommendations include reducing greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change and rising temperatures; establishing and strengthening government responsibilities for extreme heat; improving data surveillance and prediction capabilities; raising public awareness about the risks of extreme heat and protective measures; and increasing community resilience to extreme heat.
“The growing threat of extreme heat requires all levels of government and the private sector to confront the fundamental crisis of climate change,” said Steven Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., senior fellow at CAP, and co-author of the report. Woolf is the director emeritus of the VCU Center on Society and Health and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at the VCU School of Medicine. “The price of inaction is costly, dangerous, and unsustainable.”
“With most of the country expected to experience increasing temperatures, our team hopes that this information highlights the need to re-evaluate and expand our perception of how environmental factors, like heat, impact human health to individually and collectively safeguard our quality of life,” said Stephen Fong, Ph.D., co-author of the report. Fong is director of the VCU Integrative Life Sciences doctoral program and a professor in the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering at the VCU College of Engineering.
Read the report: “The Health Care Costs of Extreme Heat” by Steven Woolf, Joseph Morina, Evan French, Adam Funk, Roy Sabo, Stephen Fong, Jeremy Hoffman, Derek Chapman, and Alex Krist.
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