Managing the Increasing Heat Stress in Rural Areas
Increasing temperatures are likely to impact human health. An increase in severe heat wave days and heat mortalities has been observed in India over the past few decades. At present, there is little evidence on the heat exposure, impact, and the adaptation measures in the rural context. The present study examines vulnerability of rural communities to heat stress in the semiarid villages in Maharashtra state of India.
The study was conducted in five villages of Jalna and Yavatmal districts of Maharashtra. Household survey covering 20% of the households was conducted in Jalna during 2016 summer months. Twenty data loggers were installed to measure the indoor temperatures in Yavatmal.
Exposure to heat in various circumstances, both outdoors and indoors, was reported. Age, gender, wealth, and pre-existing health conditions were significantly associated with occurrence of heat-related symptoms (HRS). Exposure factors such as working outdoors during midday, roofing material, and indoor ventilation were significantly associated with occurrence of HRS. The indoor temperature in houses with tin roofs was found to be higher as compared to cement-roofed houses.
Existing coping strategies appear to be inadequate to protect people from outdoor and indoor heat stress. People from poorer households reported socioeconomic and livelihood challenges in adopting coping strategies as well. A long-term and locally appropriate strategy in terms of knowledge about HRS and infrastructure and access to timely medical facilities is needed. Development of effective surveillance mechanism and a comprehensive state-level heat action plan are needed to prevent and monitor heat mortalities in the future.
KeywordsHeat stress Heat-related symptoms Differential vulnerability Rural health Semiarid regions
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