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Environ Health. 2017 Dec 5;16(Suppl 1):128. doi: 10.1186/s12940-017-0324-3.

Impact of extreme weather events and climate change for health and social care systems.

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Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK.
Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
School of Applied Social Science, Durham University, Durham, UK.
School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society, Hariot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK.
Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK.


This review, commissioned by the Research Councils UK Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) programme, concerns research on the impacts on health and social care systems in the United Kingdom of extreme weather events, under conditions of climate change. Extreme weather events considered include heatwaves, coldwaves and flooding. Using a structured review method, we consider evidence regarding the currently observed and anticipated future impacts of extreme weather on health and social care systems and the potential of preparedness and adaptation measures that may enhance resilience. We highlight a number of general conclusions which are likely to be of international relevance, although the review focussed on the situation in the UK. Extreme weather events impact the operation of health services through the effects on built, social and institutional infrastructures which support health and health care, and also because of changes in service demand as extreme weather impacts on human health. Strategic planning for extreme weather and impacts on the care system should be sensitive to within country variations. Adaptation will require changes to built infrastructure systems (including transport and utilities as well as individual care facilities) and also to institutional and social infrastructure supporting the health care system. Care sector organisations, communities and individuals need to adapt their practices to improve resilience of health and health care to extreme weather. Preparedness and emergency response strategies call for action extending beyond the emergency response services, to include health and social care providers more generally.

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