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Abstracts: ISEE 22nd Annual Conference, Seoul, Korea, 28 August–1 September 2010: Natural Disasters and Health

Regional Characteristics of Heat-related Deaths and the Application of a Heat-health Warning System in Korea

Lee, Dae-Geun1; Choi, Young-Jean1; Kim, Kyu Rang1; Kalkstein, Laurence2; Sheridan, Scott3

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000392230.68294.7c
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PP-29-171

Background/Aims:

Temperatures seem to be rising significantly in mega-cities like Seoul. The elderly population, which is on rise, is more susceptible to the rising temperature, and may find themselves exposed to potential health risks in the future. To minimize the social and health impacts of heat, the Korea Meteorological Administration operates an Extreme Heat Warning System (EHWS) since 2007. EHWS gives warnings by absolute criteria, the duration of daily maximum temperature and the heat index. KMA and Applied Climatologists are developing a Heat-Health Warning System (HHWS) based on a spatial synoptic classification for major Korean cities to minimize population vulnerability to heat.

Methods:

We studied regional characteristics of mortality and meteorological conditions in Seoul and Busan during the extreme heat wave of 1994. We estimated the relationship between EHWS's fixed criteria and observed deaths during 1991–2005. During the same period, HHWS's warning criteria and observed excess deaths were calculated and compared to the EHWS's to test the reliability of the system.

Results:

Deaths attributed to heat varied between Seoul and Busan due to the difference in heat wave intensity, initiation of the season, and duration of the heat wave. Maximum temperature exceeded the seasonal norm by 8°, which contributed to the extreme heat intensity in Seoul. In Busan, the heat wave commenced about 20 days earlier than in a typical year, which suggests that the expedited time of season influenced the acclimatization. Warning frequency of EHWS was observed on 12 days in 1994, while HHWS detected 66 such days that year. Observed excess deaths for the warning criteria were 352 deaths with EHWS and 754 deaths with HHWS. HHWS thus produced more exacting information for public health officials to minimize negative health outcomes.

Conclusion:

Because of increasing urban vulnerability, the application and development of a heat warning system is imperative. Application of HHWS will reduce the urban health risks and provide efficient decision-making for public health officials.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.