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.”
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.