First Global Forum on Heat and Health held in Hong Kong, China

By Lucas Scherdel, Joy Shumake-Guillemot, Hunter Jones, Juli Trtanj, and Chao Ren

Heat risks remain a silent disaster. The First Global Forum on Heat and Health, held in Hong Kong, China, from 17 to 20 December 2018, addressed that challenge and launched the Global Heat Health Information Network (the Network). Over the four-day event, 120 interdisciplinary practitioners and researchers from 33 countries provided fresh, real-world perspectives on heat health risk management across diverse fields, such as medical science, urban planning, meteorology, and economics.

The international forum also formally launched the Global Heat Health Information Network (http://www., an independent, voluntary, and member driven forum of scientists, professionals, and policymakers focused on enhancing and multiplying the global and local learning regarding resilience building for heat health.

Worldwide experts agree that extreme hot weather is having devastating consequences for human health in all inhabited world regions. For many places, heat waves kill more people than any other weather-related disaster. Researchers in Hong Kong told the First Global Forum on Heat and Health that, in highly urbanized and densely populated parts of the Asian city, every 1°C increase in maximum daytime temperature above 28.2°C results in a 1.8% increase in mortality. Experts note that the world could reach a level of more than 80–90% urbanization by the last quarter of the century, placing extremely large populations at risk.

Attendees participated in a simulated emergency exercise of a high impact heatwave event with many casualties where participants learned the effectiveness of timely, clear, and concise communication with the public, media, governments, and stakeholders to prevent and reduce health impacts. The forum launched a global network which will seek to build diverse partnerships, improve available evidence and actionable information for planning and preparedness, enhance global heat wave prediction capabilities, and promote life-saving heat-resilient interventions such as community outreach and early warning systems.

The diverse network of professionals from many fields—including medical doctors, meteorologists, architects, and urban designers—committed to work together to improve risk monitoring capabilities, including meteorological information and warnings, and health surveillance. Experts will share its recommendations with its partner organizations, including the World Meteorological Organization and World Health Organization, recognizing their importance in providing guidance for addressing these risks.

“The year 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record, one of 20 warmest years that have occurred in the past 22 years. Many parts of the world experienced exceptional heat, prolonged heat waves, and associated wildfires,” said Elena Manaenkova, WMO Deputy Secretary General. “Hot extremes will increase in the future and so the risk to human health. Heat warnings and related weather and climate services are critical to mitigate this risk. Therefore, WHO and WMO are taking urgent action and bringing health experts and meteorologists together to enhance heat-health services to the public.” The Global Heat Health Information Network recommended that a Second Global Forum be held no later than 2020.

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Lucas Scherdel and Joy Shumake, World Health Organization/World Meteorological Organization, Climate and Health Office, Geneva, Switzerland. Hunter Jones and Juli Trtanj, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Climate Program Office, Washington, D.C., USA. Chao Ren, The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Architecture, Hong Kong, China