Adaptation measures to heat

The project - as part of the federal government's Adaptation to climate change action plan - provides an overview of the status of the implementation of adaptation measures in the health sector to the increasing heat stress.


Increasing heat stress poses a risk to human health. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), together with other federal agencies, is implementing the measure "Information and recommendations for protection against heat" as part of the second federal Adaptation to climate change action plan in Switzerland (2020 - 2025).

The focus of the measure to date has been on developing a knowledge base and providing information and recommendations on protection against heat. The target groups are vulnerable population groups as well as experts and authorities who are committed to protecting the population from heat-related risks.

In the years 2023 - 2026, we are now also focusing on the concrete implementation of heat-related measures in the health sector. What is known, what is being done? To answer this, we are surveying the population, health professionals and authorities. This assessment is intended to identify implementation gaps and formulate recommendations for stakeholders.

Survey on the heat literacy of the population aged 50 and over

In summer 2023, we surveyed 1800 people aged 50 and over on their individual heat literacy. Heat literacy encompasses knowledge about possible protective measures in the event of heat, how affected they are by the heat (perceived stress and health risk) and how they act in the event of heat, in particular the implementation of behavioral recommendations.

Results and conclusions

  • Almost all respondents (around 99%) said they knew how to protect their health during hot weather.

  • However, specific questions revealed that there was more potential: out of eight possible categories of recommendations on how to protect yourself in hot weather, most respondents (58%) only mentioned two or three. Only one in ten people named measures from five or more categories.

  • The following recommendations from these categories were mentioned most frequently: "drink a lot" (83%), "go to cool places" (51%) and "avoid physical exertion" (49%); the least frequently mentioned were: "wear light clothing" (10%), "avoid alcohol" (4%), "adjust medication dosage" (0.3%).

  • Half of the population surveyed did not perceive the hot weather in summer 2023 as stressful, the other half as very or fairly stressful.

  • Just over half of those surveyed considered the heat to be a risk to their own health, with significantly fewer people in German-speaking Switzerland (46%) than in French-speaking Switzerland (76%) and Italian-speaking Ticino (66%).

  • For a third of the important (and large) target group for recommendations on prevention measures, namely people aged 50 and over with a chronic illness and people aged 75 and over, did not consider heat to be a risk to their own health.

  • Hardly anyone (around 2%) stated that they had not taken any specific action to protect their own health from the heat in summer 2023.

  • On average, two of the eight possible categories of recommendations were implemented.

  • Men over the age of 75, people without a post-compulsory education and people in a difficult financial situation showed significantly less heat protection behavior than the other respondents.

  • The important (and large) target group for recommendations on prevention measures (≥50 years with chronic illness and ≥75 years) did not implement more heat protection measures than the average of the 50+ population.

  • Around 8% stated that they had spoken to a healthcare professional about the heat in summer 2023. The proportion was twice as high among people with chronic illnesses.

  • The population is well informed about measures to protect themselves during hot days. At the same time, it is clear that many effective measures for hot days are not known and/or are not actively implemented. This can lead to avoidable health consequences due to heat.

  • The existing high level of self-efficacy (99% of respondents believe they can do something themselves to protect their health during hot weather) can therefore not yet be fully exploited.

  • Broad public relations work is essential and meets with great acceptance among respondents.

  • Communication activities aimed at specific target groups are also important. In particular, men aged 75 and over, people without a post-compulsory school qualification and people in a difficult financial situation should be made more aware of the health risk posed by heat and effective measures. They showed significant deficits in terms of their knowledge and actions.

  • Information should be provided not only about effective protective measures, but also about the health risk (for themselves and others) posed by hot weather.

  • Imparting knowledge is not enough to ensure that the recommendations are implemented. This can be seen, for example, in the discrepancy between knowledge and action with regard to the recommendation "drink plenty of fluids" (proportion of those who know the recommendation is around 20 percentage points higher than the proportion of those who implement it) and the recommendations "avoid exertion", "protect skin/head from the sun" and "go to cool places" (knowledge >10 percentage points higher than action).

  • Traditional media (television, radio and newspapers) and - also in this age group - weather apps are important sources of information. However, the most important source of information is the social environment (family, friends and acquaintances).

  • Health professionals are also essential contacts. Extrapolated to the 50+ population, around 300,000 people in Switzerland spoke to a healthcare professional about the topic of heat in summer 2023 and around 6,000 people consulted a healthcare service due to a medical emergency caused by the heat.

Last modification 30.04.2024

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Healthcare and Related Professions Division
National Health Policy Section
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