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Climate change: More prevention against heat deaths in summer

Climate change: More prevention against heat deaths in summer

Hot days are coming soon. What pleases many can become a health risk for others. The focus is on more information and practical measures – even in the event of a major event.

Preparations in clinics and nursing homes, information about the European Football Championship in Germany: Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has called for stronger prevention against health damage and deaths caused by heat this summer.

“Climate change will make heat protection a permanent problem,” said the SPD politician after a meeting with experts. Systematic preparations are necessary for this. “Otherwise, thousands of citizens will die unnecessarily every summer.” High temperatures have consequences, especially for the elderly and the sick. Patient representatives demanded more investment in heat protection.

Lauterbach met with representatives from states, municipalities, the health sector and science in Berlin after presenting a first “heat protection plan” last year. The ministry has now presented recommendations for practical heat protection in clinics and care facilities. These include educating and raising awareness among staff and patients, as well as suggestions for cooler and shady areas or water supplies.

Number of heat-related deaths recently decreased

The minister explained that it could be “a dangerous summer” in terms of heat. In general, this is a particular problem in Western Europe with its comparatively old population and many people in cities. There are usually a few hot days, but hundreds of people die. “We simply have to do more on these days.” According to the Robert Koch Institute, there were 3,200 heat-related deaths last year, compared to 4,500 in 2022. “We have gotten better,” said Lauterbach.

This summer, the focus will continue to be on high-risk groups such as the elderly, children, the chronically ill, people living alone and those in need of care. The federal recommendations are intended to facilitate practical measures in healthcare facilities. “A lot of what works does not depend on remodeling,” said Lauterbach. Care expert Claus Bölicke mentioned, for example, foil and roller blinds as sun protection on glass facades. Physical activities could be scheduled for the morning, while memory training or singing sessions could be done in the afternoon in cooler rooms or in the shade of the garden.

Warnings from the German Weather Service are set to play an important role in providing information to the general public. They can now indicate heat waves five days in advance, said Lauterbach. For acute warnings where immediate action is required, warnings via mobile phone notifications are also being considered. Preparations are underway with the Federal Ministry of the Interior for this, said the SPD politician. Doctors’ President Klaus Reinhardt announced a day of action on June 5th to raise awareness of the issue of heat across the country.

Heat information for football fans

Another special event this summer is the European Football Championship, which begins on June 14 in Germany – in the stadiums, but also with large fan festivals outdoors, as was the case at the home World Cup in the summer of 2006. At the European Championship, it is important to warn fans in a very special way and offer them help, said Lauterbach. Appropriate measures are currently being prepared.

For the health care system, the German Foundation for Patient Protection called for an investment plan for the 1,700 hospitals and 12,000 care facilities. “Without financial commitments from the federal government, the heat summit will remain nothing but hot air,” said board member Eugen Brysch. Existing buildings should be adapted to the climate conditions within three years at the latest. In new buildings, it must be ensured that the room temperature does not exceed 25 degrees. The head of the German Social Association, Michaela Engelmeier, demanded: “We now need to speed up the implementation of comprehensive measures.”

Source: Stern

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