Development and data-based evaluation of climate-friendly measures to reduce heat-related health risks


Heat waves and high temperatures place a burden on the population, especially on vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children and people with chronic diseases. Studies show that high temperatures (>30°C) during the day and at night (>20°C) have significant impacts on health. Effects on women show a stronger correlation than on men. As climate change progresses, there will be an increase in heat days, leading to increased stress, bottlenecks and even overloads for the health and care system due to increased hospitalisations, care services and interventions.

It is therefore crucial to raise awareness of the health risks posed by heat at the policy, institutional and individual levels and to take proactive measures to reduce thermal stress. To this end, heat protection plans including a short- and medium-term catalogue of measures have already been developed at national and country level. However, an evidence-based evaluation and basis for prioritisation as well as tools for implementation are missing.

The HeatProtect project creates a sound data basis for decision-making and digital solutions for coping with heat waves. In the project, we analyse and quantify for the first time the links between heat waves and the impact on the health system in Austria. We define meteorological thresholds for the significantly clustered occurrence of various diseases, taking into account already existing multimorbidities and exogenous factors such as exposure and vulnerability. By combining these data, particularly affected areas can be identified and classified using Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This makes it possible to better determine both individual and structural heat risk and to develop short-term acute measures as well as medium- to long-term strategies.

Together with project partners and stakeholders from the health and care sector, we are developing solutions for the effective handling of acute heat waves for clients and employees in a co-creation process. The aim is to design an efficient early warning system based on weather forecasts in combination with the defined KPIs in order to warn and inform individuals and institutions in time. On a medium- to long-term scale, climate risks, the local impacts of adaptation measures as well as the consequences for the health sector are investigated. Scenario-based simulations will be used to model changes in heat stress, changes in exposure and a resulting change in climate risk. Based on this, the impact on the number of heat-related hospitalisations and ambulance dispatches is predicted using agent-based models.

The results of HeatProtect are relevant on an individual level as well as on an institutional and structural (policy) level. The results will be presented in workshops in the City Intelligence Lab of the AIT and measures of existing heat plans will be evaluated and prioritised together. The different scenarios will also be evaluated in terms of their economic and ecological aspects. Both the total costs of heat-related health problems and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions will be quantified. This allows HeatProtect to compare the cost and environmental impacts of mitigation and adaptation measures, assess their effectiveness and derive co-benefits between health aspects and climate protection.


01.01.2024 – 
Daniela Meier, Executive Grant Officer at the Complexity Science Hub

Daniela Meier

Peter Klimek, Faculty member at the Complexity Science Hub

Peter Klimek

Funded by

Project Partners

AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
Medical University of Vienna
Caritas der Erzdiözese Wien gemeinnützige GmbH
Johanniter Österreich Ausbildung und Forschung gemeinnützige GmbH
Gesundheit Österreich GmbH
Ludwig Bolzmann Institute Digital Health and Patient Safety
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