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Int J Public Health. 2012 Apr;57(2):297-304. doi: 10.1007/s00038-011-0243-y. Epub 2011 Mar 8.

Minimising harm from heatwaves: a survey of awareness, knowledge, and practices of health professionals and care providers in Victoria, Australia.

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Centre of Research Excellence in Patient Safety, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Level 6, The Alfred Centre, 99 Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria, 3004, Australia.



Heatwaves cause illness and death, and are likely to become more severe and frequent in the future. This study has investigated the awareness, knowledge and practices of health professionals and care providers regarding heatwaves and health of older clients, in order to inform harm minimisation strategies for Victoria, Australia.


An electronic survey of personnel of six health profession and care provider groups that support the health of older people living in the community was conducted in Victoria, Australia, in 2008. Descriptive statistics were derived through quantitative analysis.


Survey respondents showed a high level of awareness that heatwaves can be harmful for older people. Gaps in knowledge were identified regarding thermoregulation, risk factors, heat-related illness, and the use of fans. Few organisations had existing heatwave response plans, and responses to heatwaves were mostly reactive and opportunistic.


Despite a broad level of understanding of the dangers of heatwaves, an opportunistic, reactive approach by health profession and carer personnel, in conjunction with gaps in knowledge, leaves older people in Victoria at risk of preventable harm from extreme hot weather.

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