The well-established connection between climate change and health is back in the spotlight, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’s) Office of Climate Change and Health Equity launched a new observational initiative in May to identify strategies to protect the public.

The initiative, Climate and Health Outlook (Outlook), connects weather forecasts to health resources for better data analysis that can reduce harm and save people’s lives from weather-related health risks.

As summer surges across the United States, Outlook is studying extreme heat. Collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Integrated Heat Health Information System, Outlook estimates which areas will face the greatest health risks related to heat.

The HHS said that exposure to extreme heat can affect people’s health in a variety of ways:

  • Heat exhaustion, which may progress to heat stroke if untreated
  • Worsened asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Kidney injury caused by dehydration, which can become irreversible if repeatedly damaged
  • Increased anxiety and depression from the violence, crime, and suicide increase with warmer temperatures
  • Risk of hospitalization for heart disease
  • Increased risk for heat-related illness from diuretics, antihistamine, and various antipsychotic medications

The Outlook initiative also adds a “health lens” to weather and climate forecasts to help the public and healthcare providers understand and prepare for weather-related health concerns.

“Our communities across the country will soon be facing heatwaves that will be an additional strain on our health systems,” Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health admiral, said. “This information will save lives when used by public health officials, employers with outdoor workers, and schools and local health departments and the individuals they serve. Having information in advance can reduce illness and deaths from extreme heat exposure.”