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Pioneering heat stress scale to be trialed in Western Sydney

13 December 2022
Taking the stress out of heatwaves
Sydney researchers are developing a heat stress scale similar to a UV index, with an accompanying app to help the public handle the heat and avoid the risk of health problems from heatwaves.
An example of a Heat Stress Scale app interface

An example of a Heat Stress Scale app interface 

A pioneering Heat Stress Scale and accompanying app will be trialed in Western Sydney this summer, designed to reduce the risk of serious health problems brought on by heatwaves.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the app is being developed by researchers at the University of Sydney, in partnership with Resilience NSW, through the $52 million Disaster Risk Reduction Fund.

“Heatwaves are responsible for more deaths in NSW than any other severe weather event, with the impact greatest on children, the elderly, Indigenous communities and people with pre-existing health conditions,” Minister Cooke said.

“The Heat Stress Scale is similar in concept to the UV index and gives users personalised, real-time information on their risk of heat-related health problems based on temperature, humidity, solar radiation and wind speed.

“This innovation will put a person’s individual risk of health problems in hot conditions in the palm of their hands and could revolutionise the way we handle the heat.”

Professor Ollie Jay, who is leading the world-first project, said the Heat Stress Scale and app are being developed by a team of multidisciplinary researchers from the University of Sydney’s Heat and Health Research Incubator in collaboration with the Sydney Environment Institute.

Dr James Smallcombe and Professor Ollie Jay in the climate chamber.

The study will be conducted in a purpose-built climate chamber in University's Susan Wakil Health Building. The chamber allows for environmental parameters to be precisely controlled for research related to heat and health.  

“This summer Western Sydney residents included in the trial will be able to create a personalised health profile in the app, providing information like age, medical conditions and regular medication,” said Professor Jay from the Faculty of Medicine and Health and Charles Perkins Centre.

“The app can then estimate the risk of a person overheating, becoming dehydrated or other negative health effects brought on by hot conditions, and provide that information in a simple 1 to 5 scale that’s easy to understand. It will also include evidence-based strategies people can easily implement to protect themselves.”

In 2019, Professor Jay worked closely with Tennis Australia medical personnel to test the specific effects of heat stress on tennis players, which led to the successful development of the Australian Open Heat Stress Scale.

The Heat Stress Scale app will be tested in Western Sydney this summer thanks to a $435,303 grant from the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund, with a potential wider rollout in the following 2023-24 summer season.

Michelle Blowes

Media and PR Adviser (Medicine & Health)

Ivy Shih

Media and Public Relations Adviser (Medicine and Health)

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