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People in hotter, poorer neighbourhoods at higher risk of death during extreme heat: study

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Warmer weather may not always be a good thing, especially for the more vulnerable members of our society.

Those who live in hotter, poorer neighbourhoods may be at higher risk of dying during extreme heat, according to a new study.

Sarah Henderson, an assistant professor at UBC’s school of population and public health, looked at the connection between temperature and deaths on very hot days from 1998 to 2014.

“Areas that we would consider to be sort of urban heat islands where there are fewer trees and more concrete, we saw an increased risk of mortality in those areas. We also saw an increase risk of mortality where a lot of people aren’t working.”

The study found “pockets of risk” throughout the region, including Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside but also in neighbourhoods that are not associated with extreme deprivation across the Lower Mainland.

Henderson says we can expect more deaths as climate change continues, so she has this advice: “If you don’t have access to air conditioning, you need to be drinking plenty of fluids and also using water to help cool your body down.”

She believes part of the problem may be that people are staying in hot homes during the day and not heading to offices or other places that might be cooler or air conditioned.

“We’re not used to hot weather in Vancouver, we don’t get it very often, but everybody needs the tools to help protect themselves,” she adds.