Sweltering Cities partners with Sydney University on Heat Stress Scale App

Sweltering Cities working with The University of Sydney’s Heat and Health Research Incubator on their Heat Stress Scale project.

Did you know that more people die from heat related issues than all other natural disasters combined? Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a way to reduce loss of life and heat related illness and support people to do this in their own homes, workplaces and lives? The University of Sydney’s Heat and Health Research Incubator is developing a Heat Stress Scale app which will help to do just that. It will give users personalised, real-time information on their risk of heat-related health problems and cooling recommendations to keep them safe.

The University of Sydney’s Heat and Health Research Incubator (HHRI), led by Professor Ollie Jay and Asssoc Professor Dr Ying Zhang, investigates the impacts of extreme heat and climate change on human health.
In recent years their work has included collaborating with Tennis Australia which led to the development of the Australian Open Heat Stress Scale. The scale ranges from one to five with specific recommendations associated with each step of the scale – 1, signifying Temperate playing conditions through to 5, Suspension of play. The Australian Open Heat Stress Scale is a Grand Slam First

Following on from the AO Heat Stress Scale, the University of Sydney’s HHRI has partnered with Resilience NSW to create a Heat Stress Scale web app for Western Sydney .This innovative project stands to benefit our entire community, with particular emphasis on people who are at risk in heatwaves such as children, the elderly, First Nations communities, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions to reduce the risk of serious health problems brought on by heatwaves.

The Heat Stress Scale is based on weather factors including temperature, humidity, solar radiation and wind speed and is combined with personal data, including age, prescribed medications, and health conditions. The web app will give a personalised heat stress rating and cooling recommendations.

As part of the process of developing the Heat Stress Scale, Sweltering Cities organised and facilitated focus groups throughout Western Sydney and online to obtain feedback from general users. We collaborated with over 150 participants at Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre, Penrith, Parramatta, and Blacktown Libraries, Parramatta Mission and The University of Sydney as well as online. Participants provided insights, opinions and perspectives on all aspects of the app including design, colours, terminology and future improvements that they would like to see. The data gathered through these interactions is presently under evaluation by the Heat and Health Research team, in preparation for upcoming summer testing.

Community perspectives are key to great heat health communication. As a partner in this project, we were able to facilitate feedback from diverse communities across Western Sydney that will make the final product more useful for those communities and more likely to save lives.

Although most of us encounter heat stress at some point, the risk to our health can be underestimated. In Australia, regardless of the temperature, the expectation persists to continue our normal everyday activities. You may be surprised to know that Australian Work Health and Safety laws do not specify a “stop work” temperature.

We know our climate is getting hotter and our summers reach dangerously high temperatures, which makes this work more important than ever. We look forward to reporting back to you with the results from testing the app this summer in Western Sydney.

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