Last month, extreme temperatures expert Paul English wrote in a guest blog post about a program getting under way in Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat in western India. The average summer maximum temperature there is 113 degrees, a daunting number that is expected to creep still further up with the changing climate.
Public health groups in Ahmedabad are collaborating with U.S. public health officials, including English, to help one another prepare for the corresponding spike in heat-related illnesses. According to a new blog post from an NRDC participant, The Indians have a lot to teach Americans about heat, and the Americans could offer expertise in tracking weather and conducting public education programs.
It’s fascinating to see how specific recommendations to local publics need to be to be effective. For instance, Ahmedabad officials shared with their American colleagues a flyer whose instructions included: “drink lots of fluids, especially water and lime sherbet,” “don’t fast,” and “do not directly face hot wind storms” along with “avoid roaming around in the heat” and “use a wet cloth to dab your head.”
In New York City, by contrast, one of the main approaches to helping vulnerable populations (especially seniors) survive heat waves is encouraging them to visit “cooling centers,” air-conditioned public-access buildings.
At least one recommendation came from the workshop: People need to be warned about unusually high temperatures in advance in order to be able to plan accordingly, whether it’s scratching plans to fast for Ramadan or arranging a ride to a local senior center or public library.
Neither Ahmedabad nor most U.S. cities have such an early warning system. It’s a humbling reminder of how much still needs to be done to prepare for the effects climate change will have on people all over the world.