Strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Extreme Heat Events Among Homeless Populations in BC’s Lower Mainland: A Review of Evidence-Based Approaches and Recommendations

Strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Extreme Heat Events Among Homeless Populations in BC’s Lower Mainland: A Review of Evidence-Based Approaches and Recommendations

Climate change has led to an increase in extreme heat events (EHE) in Canada and globally, which are directly associated with morbidity and mortality. Homeless populations are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of EHE due to a combination of broad risk factors.

To examine the current state of knowledge on ways to mitigate the risks of EHE in academic literature, twenty-three studies from five databases were reviewed. Studies that shared similar contexts, research questions, study designs, methodologies, health outcomes and/or program plans were then thematically grouped into sub- disciplines of research for analysis.

Five main themes emerged from the studies that were returned from the database searches: 1) the usefulness of geospatial mapping to identify EHE hotspots and vulnerable populations, 2) the paucity of complete and/or adequate data for surveillance of heat-related morbidities and mortalities, 3) the inclusion of social and economic factors in EHE studies is integral to understanding and addressing each community’s unique needs, 4) the importance of built environment features in long-term mitigation of and adaptation to EH impacts, and 5) the alignment of multiple stakeholders’ perceptions on the risks associated with extreme heat exposure is crucial for effective coordination of EHE responses and evaluation. Most publications lacked an in-depth examination of strategies to address homeless people’s specific health needs. Opportunities and challenges around data limitations, inconsistent definitions of heat- related illnesses and deaths, as well as analytical gaps in EHE research and practice were explored.

This capstone project proposes eight recommendations for Health Authorities in BC’s Lower Mainland to reduce the impacts of EHE on the homeless population. Priority action items include but are not limited to: the involvement of homeless people in intervention dialogues; the increase in the availability of and accessibility to cooling spaces; the enhancement of health service delivery for homeless people; and the improvement of data gathering practices to facilitate surveillance and evaluation.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2017