Woman drinking water

Our research

Building heat resilience for all

The Heat and Health Research Incubator (HHRI) promotes multi-disciplinary collaborations and focuses on developing comprehensive evidence-based solutions to the complex and numerous health problems associated with exposure to extreme heat and hot weather.

We are global leaders in heat and health research. Extreme heat and hot weather, which is aggravated by climate change, has devastating impacts for human health and wellbeing, and the challenges experienced during extreme heat events vary across the human lifespan.

It is not only crucial to understand how heat stress impacts human health at different stages of life (e.g., during pregnancy or as we age), but the solutions that we generate must not contribute further to global warming while being sustainable and scalable. The unprecedented global temperatures recently experienced emphasise the urgency of this work.

The HHRI brings together researchers with deep domain-specific expertise to focus on solving the most important heat-health issues. Members of the Heat and Health Research Incubator include experts from topic areas such as:

  • Physiology
  • Climate science
  • Cardiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Air pollution
  • Paediatric health
  • Women’s health
  • Sports medicine
  • Infectious diseases
  • Engineering
  • Sustainability
  • Public and community health
  • Innovation science

Priority research themes

We have identified five priority research themes that transcend subject-specific knowledge. These research themes present genuine opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration which is crucial to tackle the current and future impacts of extreme heat and hot weather.

HHRI priority research themes

Maternal & child health

Areas of focus:

  • Negative heat-related pregnancy outcomes
  • Infant thermal management methods
  • Heat in schools
  • Playground safety

The HEaT INFORM Pregnancy Study

Led by Professor Adrienne Gordon (Central Clinical School), and supported by Wellcome. HHRI Members are leading a multi-country prospective pregnancy cohort field study in India and Bangladesh, and a laboratory-based study in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory Climate Chamber to investigate extreme heat and maternal and child health. This research aims to develop a pregnancy-specific thermo-physiological model that determines heat-health risk for women throughout pregnancy. Our work on maternal and child health during extreme heat was featured in Science.

The cool infant stroller study

A study led by HHRI researchers Dr James Smallcombe and Fauzan Bin Maideen reported that covering a pram with a dry flannel or a muslin cloth can heat up the inside of a pram by almost 4 degrees Celsius. Our research showed that if you combine a damp muslin cloth draped over the pram and add a clip-on fan, you can reduce the temperature within the pram by 4.7 degrees Celsius relative to the outside ambient temperature. This study was published in Ergonomics which you can read here, and was also featured in the ABC News. The findings from this study have been translated into a heat-health policy infographic by the Global Heat and Health Information Network which can be found here and a short video which can be watched here.

Physical activity, sport & occupational health

Children playing soccer
Areas of focus:
  • Extreme heat policy development in Sport
  • Equitable cooling in the Ready-made Garment Industry
  • Occupational heat stress risk management
  • Active commuting 

Managing Extreme Heat Stress Risk for the Australian Open

Since 2019, HHRI Researchers have managed heat stress risk for players at the Australian Open through the development and implementation of a cutting-edge Extreme Heat Policy for tennis.

Across various locations of the Australian Open precinct in Melbourne, HHRI researchers measure the environmental conditions by deploying our patented Environmental Measurement Units (EMUs). These units in association with our Heat Stress Management System, allow for continuous management of the athlete's heat stress risk in real-time. Our Heat Stress Management System has been officially endorsed by the International Olympic Committee to be used for all major outdoor sports at all future Summer Olympic Games starting in Paris in 2024.

Improving conditions for ready-made garment factory workers facing extreme heat

As we face a warming world, working towards improving conditions for vulnerable workers in extreme heat is becoming increasingly critical. HHRI researchers, in collaboration with Griffith University and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, are working together on a Wellcome Funded project to address this issue. This research examines the efficacy of low-cost and sustainable interventions that alleviate the impacts of extreme heat on ready-made garment factory workers in Bangladesh. Click on the video link below to learn more about the inequality of extreme heat and how HHRI researchers are working towards reducing this inequality.

Watch Heat and Health Research: The inequality of extreme heat

Ageing & chronic diseases

elderly woman hugging her daughter

Areas of focus:

  • Heat action plans
  • Personal heat resilience
  • Medications
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Mental health
  • Aged-care homes
  • Future survivability limits

Building heat resilience for the most vulnerable during heatwaves

Led by HHRI Director Professor Ollie Jay, and supported by a 5-year NHMRC Project Grant, HHRI researchers undertaken a large-scale project assessing the efficacy of low-cost and accessible cooling strategies for the most vulnerable during extreme heat. In collaboration with colleagues at the Montreal Heart Institute, we have identified the optimal strategies for mitigating the development of heat-related illnesses during heatwaves for older adults with and without cardiovascular disease. The findings of these and other preceding studies in the HHRI have been translated into public health recommendations published in The Lancet, and are now incorporated into revised public health guidance issued by NSW Health (Beat the Heat campaign) and the World Health Organisation.

HeatWatch – Helping individuals and communities stay safe in the heat

HHRI Researchers in collaboration with the Sydney Environment Institute and key stakeholders in government, health and the wider community have developed the HeatWatch application. The HeatWatch application, funded by NSW Reconstruction Authority allows users to estimate a personalised heat health risk. It provides evidenced-based cooling strategies that are easily implementable with the application design and features shaped by direct consultations with community members via focus groups. The HeatWatch application is a user-friendly and practical tool for heatwave health risk management.

A world-first clinical trial on prescription medication and extreme heat

HHRI Researchers are leading a groundbreaking clinical trial on the impact of amitriptyline (a common antidepressant) on the ability to physiologically regulate body temperature during extreme heat. This work is led by HHRI PhD Candidate Lily Hospers and HHRI members Professor Andrew McLachlan (Sydney School of Pharmacy), Professor David Le Couteur (Concord Clinical School), and Dr Yorgi Mavros (Sydney School of Health Sciences). This research may lead to more evidenced-based prescriptive practices and advice for practitioners and public health agencies when it comes to prescription medications and their use during extreme heat events.

Understanding cardiac and respiratory function during extreme heat events

Current research that is being led by Dr Georgia Chaseling, in collaboration with Dr Troy Cross and Professor Kazuaki Negishi, and funded by the Charles Perkins Centre, is investigating what happens to the functional properties of our heart and lungs during extreme heat and hot weather in healthy older adults, people with coronary artery disease and people with heart failure.

Landscapes & the built environment

eco-friendly building

Areas of focus:

  • White/green roofing
  • Urban greening
  • Shading initiatives
  • “Fan-first” cooling
  • Modifications to the built environment
  • Future sustainable cooling
  • Low-income housing

Fan-first cooling strategy

Published in the Lancet Planetary Health 2022, HHRI researchers and collaborators around the world describe how we can change public health guidance without sacrificing thermal comfort during heatwaves. This work on fan-first cooling demonstrates how to curb summer air conditioning-use by increasing indoor air movement using fans to elevate the upper temperature limit for thermal discomfort. When doing so, this research demonstrated that households can reduce electricity consumption and the associated cost of cooling indoor spaces by up to ~70%, ultimately lowering the stress on frail energy infrastructure during hot weather events.

Our work on how to reduce air conditioning-use during Summer was presented on the ABC which you can watch here, and was an anchor episode for the BBC StoryWorks Series called The Climate and Us.

Humanitarian settings

child in bed with mosquito net


Areas of focus:

  • Refugee camps
  • Slums
  • Heat & mosquito-borne diseases
  • Heat & water-borne diseases


Improving sleep inside insecticide treated mosquito nets in hot night-time environments

Currently, the primary cause of non-compliance with insecticide treated mosquito nets in hot night-time environments is due to the discomfort of feeling too hot. Dr Yorgi Mavros is leading an NHMRC-funded project to investigate how to improve overnight sleep quality inside insecticide treated mosquito nets in hot night-time environments. This study will define the parameters of a simple cooling device that can be retrofitted at scale into mosquito nets with the goal of increasing compliance with overnight net-use.

Preventing adverse heat events for people experiencing homelessness

Dr Tim English is leading a multi-disciplinary research team to implement pop-up cooling hubs in Sydney for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness during extreme heat events to prevent heat-illness in this population. This project translates HHRI research on sustainable and low-cost cooling solutions to real-world settings for people in vulnerable populations groups. This research team, which includes members from the HHEATeam (Homelessness and Heat Emergency Activation Team) with St Vincent’s Hospital (Homeless Health Service and Disaster Management Team), and City of Sydney in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology and the University of Technology Sydney, are working towards ensuring that all populations can navigate safely through heatwaves.

Major Grants

Title: Heat and Health: Building resilience to a warming planet across the human lifespan 

Amount: $2,098,555 for 5 years (2022-26)    

Academic(s): Jay O

Brief Description: Professor Jay’s investigator grant will form the cornerstone of the laboratory based HHRI activities in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory over the coming years and build on his recent work published in JAMA, Lancet, Lancet Planetary Health, and Annals of Internal Medicine. This investigator grant will also support proof-of-principle studies examining potential solutions for preventing the secondary effects of heat as an aggravator of mosquito-borne and water-borne diseases.

Title: Optimising sleep quality inside insecticide treated mosquito nets in hot overnight environments

Amount: $1,244,248.00 for 4 years (2023-26) 

Academic(s): Mavros, Y, Bartlett D, Capon A, Cayanan E, Vargas N, Smallcombe J

Brief Description: This grant examines how overnight sleep quality inside insecticide treated mosquito nets in hot night-time environments can be improved. The study will be conducted in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory Climate Chamber over the next four years with the overall goal of defining the parameters of a simple cooling device that can be retrofitted at scale into mosquito nets to increase overnight net use compliance. 

Research Theme: Humanitarian Settings

Title: A new “Heat Stress Scale” for reducing personal health risk during heatwave disasters 

Amount: $435,303 for 15 months (2022-2024)

Academic(s): Jay, O, Schlosberg, D, Capon T, Vargas N, Chaseling G, Smallcombe J, Iverson K, Cross T, Bright, F

Brief Description: This project will develop, disseminate, and pilot test across Western Sydney throughout Summer 2023-2024 a new publicly available “Heat Stress Scale” for enhancing community resilience to heat wave disasters.

Research Themes: Spans across all our research themes

Title: The HEaT INFORM Pregnancy Study

Amount: $3,918,317 for 5 years (2023-2028)

Academic(s): Gordon A, Jay O, Dandona R, Raynes-Greenow C, Smallcombe J, Pasupathy D, Jegasothy E, Capon A, Billah M, Nagpal J

Brief Description: This project involves a multi-country prospective pregnancy cohort study in India and Bangladesh, and a laboratory-based study in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory Climate Chamber with the aim to create a pregnancy-specific thermo-physiological model to determine heat-health risk for women throughout pregnancy. 

Research Theme: Maternal and Child Health 

Title: Managing heat stress among Bangladesh ready-made clothing industry workers 

Amount: $862,811 for 4 years (2020-23)  

Academic(s): Palutikof J, Jay O, Capon A

Brief Description: The Heat and Health Research Incubator in Collaboration with Griffith University and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology with funding support from Wellcome Trust (UK) are examining heat stress and sustainable cooling options for workers in ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh. This study aims to analyse heat stress responses during tasks such as sewing and ironing to identify the most sustainable cooling solutions to use within factories.

Research Theme: Landscapes and the Built Environment

Title: An evidence-based extreme heat policy for child and youth sport 

Amount: $659,057 for 5 years (2019-23)

Academic(s): Jay O, Periard J, Capon A, Broderick C, Orchard J, Chalmers S

Brief description: This project aims to develop Australia’s first evidence-based extreme heat policy for child and youth sport

Research Theme: Physical Activity, Sport and Occupational Health

Title: Identifying optimal sustainable cooling strategies for the most vulnerable during heatwaves 

Amount: $1,100,237 for 5 years (2018-23)    

Academic(s): Jay O, Crandall C, Capon A, Fiatarone Singh M, Bi P, Gagnon D

Brief Description: This project aims to determine the optimal cost-effective strategies for mitigating the development of heat-related illnesses during heatwaves in people older than 65 years.

Research Theme: Ageing and Chronic Diseases