Emergency department visits and associated healthcare costs attributable to increasing temperature in the context of climate change in Perth, Western Australia, 2012-2019

Michael Xiaoliang Tong, Berhanu Yazew Wondmagegn, Jianjun Xiang, Susan Williams, Alana Hansen, Keith Dear, Dino Pisaniello, Jianguo Xiao, Le Jian, Ben Scalley, Monika Nitschke, John Nairn, Hilary Bambrick, Jonathan Karnon, Peng Bi

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Abstract

Increasing temperature and its impact on population health is an emerging significant public health issue in the context of climate change in Australia. While previous studies have primarily focused on risk assessment, very few studies have evaluated heat-attributable emergency department (ED) visits and associated healthcare costs, or projected future health and economic burdens. This study used a distributed lag non-linear model to estimate heat attributable ED visits and associated healthcare costs from 13 hospitals in Perth, Western Australia, and to project the future healthcare costs in 2030s and 2050s under three climate change scenarios - Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs)2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5. There were 3697 ED visits attributable to heat (temperatures above 20.5 C) over the study period 2012-2019, accounting for 4.6% of the total ED visits. This resulted in AU$ 2.9 million in heat-attributable healthcare costs. The number of ED visits projected to occur in the 2030s and 2050s ranges from 5707 to 9421 under different climate change scenarios, which would equate to AU$ 4.6-7.6 million in heat associated healthcare costs. The heat attributable fraction for ED visits and associated healthcare costs would increase from 4.6% and 4.1% in 2010s to 5.0%-6.3% and 4.4%-5.6% in 2030s and 2050s, respectively. Future heat attributable ED visits and associated costs will increase in Perth due to climate change. Excess heat will generate a substantial population health challenge and economic burdens on the healthcare system if there is insufficient heat adaptation. It is vital to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop heat-related health interventions and optimize healthcare resources to mitigate the negative impact on the healthcare system and population health in the face of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number065011
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume16
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Temperature
  • Climate change
  • Heat attributable disease
  • Healthcare cost
  • Emergency department visits
  • Perth
  • Australia

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