News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search

 

Infamous norwester could affect future health of Cantabrians


5 December 2012
Infamous nor’wester could affect future health of Cantabrians – study

Latest research suggests that the predicted increase in heat-related extreme weather events as a result of climate change – in particular the infamous nor’wester wind in Christchurch – could pose a risk to the delivery of hospital services in the future.

Frances Graham, a senior adviser in the environmental and border health team at the Ministry of Health, examined Christchurch hospital data collected from 1990 to 2010 and climate data from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to determine the effects of heat-related extreme weather events, like the nor’wester wind, on heat-associated adverse health outcomes such as hospital admissions (morbidity).

This research, funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC), is believed to be the first study in New Zealand to examine the relationship between environmental factors like climatic winds and the incidence of heat-induced conditions/illnesses.

Ms Graham took a research sabbatical to pursue this study with the help of the HRC’s Foxley Fellowship.

“The nor’wester is a particularly hot, dry and turbulent wind that results in a sudden increase in temperature and decrease in relative humidity,” says Ms Graham. “The city of Christchurch provided a unique location to examine the effects of the nor’wester on morbidity because of its location in the so-called nor’west belt.”

Preliminary results from Ms Graham’s research show that there was a six per cent increase in the number of people admitted to Christchurch Hospital for diabetes on hot days (25°C), including warm, windy days, and a 10 per cent increase in admissions for renal failure between 1990 and 2010.

Abnormally hot days caused by climatic events like the nor’wester can increase the risk of developing a heat-related condition for those people with mental disorders, hyperthermia and chronic medical conditions such as diabetes. The thermoregulatory, physiological and circulatory adjustments necessary for the human body to cope with extreme heat can also place stress on the kidneys, predisposing patients to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Ms Graham says modelling data from NIWA’s Dr Brett Mullan, a co-author of the study, along with input from climatologist Professor Glenn McGregor (The University of Auckland), shows that heat waves and other extreme heat-related events are expected to increase in both frequency and magnitude as climate change becomes more prominent. For the Canterbury region, the annual mean temperatures are predicted to increase 0.9°C from 1990 levels by 2040 and 2°C by 2090.

Based on her findings, Ms Graham believes that health providers and policy makers need to start taking preparations for climate change seriously.

“Global warming is changing our world dramatically and generating new risks. Health providers and policy makers need to consider the science and begin applying it to the problem. In some circumstances, that will mean applying the same risk reduction approaches that emergency managers apply to natural disasters such as earthquakes.”

The results from the study will now be used to assess the ability of Christchurch’s hospitals to deliver quality of care during hot days. Addressing heat exposure through urban planning, the design of new hospital facilities and changes to health education are some of the adaptive strategies being explored.

“Long-term health conditions such as diabetes and renal failure are forecast to continue to rise as New Zealand’s population ages. The question is how much the predicted average increase in temperatures will influence this,” says Ms Graham.


-Ends-

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 
Gold For RNZ: Muslim Post-9/11 Series, Kim Hill Win In New York

The Radio New Zealand podcast series Public Enemy has won a gold award for excellence for its presenter, Mohamed Hassan, at the prestigious New York Festival Radio Awards announced in Manhattan today. RNZ National’s Saturday Morning host, Kim Hill, also received a gold award for Best Radio Personality. More>>

Human Rights Commission: Give Nothing To Racism

A campaign urging New Zealanders to give nothing to racism and refuse to spread intolerance has been launched by some of the country’s most well-known people. More>>

Louis Vuitton Series Win: Emirates Team NZ Will Challenge For The America’s Cup

By beating Artemis 5-2 they now take on Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup match starting next weekend. More>>

ALSO:

Monterey: Rodger Fox Big Band Invited To Celebrated Festival

The Rodger Fox Big Band has received an invitation to perform at the 2017 Monterey 60th Anniversary Jazz Festival in the USA in September of this year. More>>

AntARTica: Scientist’s Painting Discovered In Antarctic Hut

The New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust has discovered an almost perfectly preserved 118 year old watercolour painting among penguin-excrement, dust and mould covered papers found in an historic hut at Cape Adare, Antarctica. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: Set In Stone

Tthere are over a thousand public war memorials scattered around the country, commemorating over 30,000 New Zealanders who have died in wartime, and most of whom are buried overseas. More>>>More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • CULTURE
  • HEALTH
  • EDUCATION
 
 
  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland