A new study of heat and health shows that hospital emergency department visits and deaths from all causes in Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island increased significantly, by 7.5 and 5.1 percent respectively, on days when the heat index reached 95 degrees as compared to days with a maximum heat index of 75 degrees.
Based on the study findings, the National Weather Service (NWS) Northeast Region forecast offices will now issue heat advisories when the heat index is forecast to reach 95 degrees on two or more consecutive days or 100 degrees for any amount of time. The previous NWS regional threshold was a maximum daily heat index of 100.
In Maine, the results of the study and the NWS policy change are driving public health officials to develop local heat response plans. In 2015, Cumberland County was the first area in Maine to develop a comprehensive plan to identify what state and local officials will do during different hot weather scenarios. In addition, Maine CDC will begin issuing health warnings for the public at the lower threshold adopted by the NWS.
The study, “Heat-related morbidity and mortality in New England: Evidence for local policy,” was published in the journal Environmental Research and led by Gregory Wellenius of the Brown University School of Public Health, and co-authored by Andrew Smith and Rebecca Lincoln of the Maine CDC, along with colleagues from the state public health agencies in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
For More Information:
- Information about preventing and recognizing heat illness: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/heat/index.html
- Data about heat illness in Maine: http://data.mainepublichealth.gov/tracking