Climate change has considerable public health implications. In this NCCS focus area (‘priority theme’), the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is working with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) to compile knowledge bases and formulate preventive measures to protect the public from the health-related effects of increasing heat stress.
According to climate scenarios, the kind of hot summers seen in 2003, 2015 and 2018 will be increasingly frequent, intense and longer-lasting in the future. The effects of heat on people’s health are varied and complex, and can result in death: in the hot summer of 2003, around 1,000 more people (+6.9%) died than is usual at that time of year; the estimated figure for 2015 was 800 (+5.4%). In summer 2018, the overall mortality rate was only 1.2% higher than normal; during the August heatwave north of the Alps, however, it was 3.4% higher.
The elderly and chronically ill are most likely to die of heat stress. Deaths are particularly likely to occur when daytime temperatures exceed 30 degrees Celsius and the night-time temperatures do not fall below 20. There are also more emergency admissions to hospital when the weather is hot.
As yet, there has been little investigation of the effects of extreme temperatures on people’s wellbeing, quality of life and performance in Switzerland.
The particular goals of the “human health” NCCS priority theme are as follows:
- The Confederation will have up-to-date knowledge bases covering the effects of climate change on human health and focusing particularly on heat.
- The Confederation will make knowledge-based information and materials concerning effective prevention measures available to the public, professionals and authorities.
As part of the priority theme, research is being done at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) into the effects of heat on health:
Report «Gesundheitliche Auswirkungen von Hitze in der Schweiz und die Bedeutung von Präventionsmassnahmen. Hitzebedingte Todesfälle im Hitzesommer 2019 – und ein Vergleich mit den Hitzesommer 2003, 2015 und 2018» (Ragettli & Röösli 2020) (in German) (PDF, 2 MB, 25.08.2020)
Report «Hitzesommer 2018. Auswirkungen auf die Sterblichkeit und kantonale Präventionsmassnahmen» (Ragettli & Röösli 2019); summarized in Report «Hitze und Trockenheit im Sommer 2018» (BAFU 2019, pages 30-39) (in German) (PDF, 840 kB, 27.02.2020)
A summary of the «2018 summer heatwave» report can be found here on pages 30-39. (in German)
English journal article: «Exploring the association between heat and mortality in Switzerland between 1995 and 2013» (Ragettli et al. 2017)
Information material for members of the public and professionals
Following the hot summer of 2003, the FOPH and FOEN compiled information material. This information creates awareness of the dangers associated with heatwaves and gives people tips on how to protect themselves during one. The material, which is intended both for professionals and for members of the public, was updated in 2016. Flyers and posters can be ordered free of charge (in German, French and Italian) from the www.hitzewelle.ch website.
Toolbox of measures for professionals and authorities
In 2021 the SwissTPH updated the toolbox for heat protection measures that was published in 2017. The toolbox is aimed at professionals and authorities who want to contribute to the protection of the population against heat. It lists possibilities for action to prevent heat-related health problems, as well as many concrete recommendations and presents actions already implemented by other actors (mainly in the health sector).
Cantonal measures can help reduce heat-related mortality:
Report «Hitzesommer 2018. Auswirkungen auf die Sterblichkeit und kantonale Präventionsmassnahmen» («The 2018 summer heatwave. Impact on mortality and cantonal prevention measures») (Ragettli & Röösli 2019) (in German) (PDF, 840 kB, 27.02.2020)
The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) manages this area of focus in cooperation with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). The basic scientific work is conducted by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) on behalf of the FOPH and FOEN.
2021 WHO Regional Office for Europe Zero regrets: scaling up action on climate change mitigation and adaptation for health in the WHO European Region. Key messages from the Working Group on Health in Climate Change. Copenhagen (PDF, 260 kB, 19.10.2021)
Last modification 22.03.2022