Climate change has far-reaching consequences for human health. One of the most obvious effects is the increase in temperature and extreme heat events. High temperatures can pose significant risks to the human body, especially for certain segments of the population. These include the elderly; infants and young children; pregnant women; people who are overweight or malnourished; people who work physically hard or outdoors; people who exercise intensively; homeless people; people with acute illnesses or certain chronic conditions; and people who regularly consume alcohol or drugs. Their physiological or behavioural characteristics make them more susceptible to heat stress and heat-related illnesses.
With this in mind, the Institute for Planetary Health Behaviour at the University of Erfurt launched a special survey on heat in May 2023 as part of its PACE study. This is because people with risk factors who do not know their heat risk are an important and large target group for education. The survey showed that despite the numerous media offerings on the topic, heat protection knowledge among the population is often inadequate. Overall, around 60 per cent of those surveyed stated that they had not been reached by the information available in the media or in their environment on the subject of heat.
"With 'HEATCOM', we now want to start here and investigate how people behave in heat situations, which factors influence their protective behaviour and which interventions could contribute to a health-promoting adaptation," explains project manager Dr Mirjam Jenny from the IPB. Philipp Sprengholz, Assistant Professor of Health Psychology, is supervising the project at the University of Bamberg. With the help of a mobile survey approach, he and his team want to precisely record thoughts, feelings and behaviour before, during and after heat events and find out what measures can be taken to reduce heat stress. The aim is to make the findings available to organisations, authorities and the public health sector so that concrete communication campaigns and intervention programmes – such as a German heat protection plan – can be designed. Dr Mirjam Jenny: "In this way, we want to contribute to improving heat protection behaviour and heat protection communication measures for the population and especially for risk groups."