Seasonal health and climate change resilience for ageing urban populations

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Bartlett Sch of Env, Energy & Resources

Abstract

It is widely recognised that climate change related alterations in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are likely to pose an increasing risk to public health. This is especially the case in major cities that have large numbers of elderly people who are potentially more vulnerable to extreme weather events. Elderly people comprise a rapidly growing and vulnerable group of society within which large populations of chronically and mentally ill, as well as isolated or homeless people exist. It is within this context that we consider the impact of extreme weather events on the urban ageing and elderly population.

Globally more people than ever are living in cities than in rural areas. The turning point was in 2007 when more than 50% of the world's population was considered to live in urban areas; by 2030 this is expected to rise to 60%. The types and impacts of extreme weather events experienced in a particular city will vary based upon the climate zone within which it located and its geographical features. Therefore, it is important to have a good understanding of the city-specific climate data and geospatial information at a range of temporal and spatial scales.

In parallel, over the past 100 years we have seen an unprecedented increase in life expectancy: people are living longer than at any point in history. This can be considered a modern global phenomenon. It is expected that by 2050, 22% of the global urban population will be over 65 years old. Elderly people over 65, especially those over 75 and living alone, are amongst the most vulnerable to the risks associated with extreme weather (especially extreme heat and cold). Often, but not always, they lack good health, mobility, access to technology and social networks and they also have a different physiological response to, for example, extremes in temperature than the younger, able-bodied, population who are more mobile and often have larger and more varied social networks. Epidemiological work has found that age (people over 65 years old) is one of the most significant determinants of heat-related health risk. Further risk factors include a propensity for dehydration, malnutrition or obesity in this section of society. Evidence has shown that during and after an extreme heat event, the elderly population tends to be amongst the most at risk.

Our project 'Seasonal health and climate change resilience for ageing urban populations: the development of vulnerability indices for selected cities and prioritisation of targeted responses', forms part of the Arup Global Research Challenge. This project aims to work collaboratively with multi-disciplinary networks of health and climate change experts from academia and the private sector, local government and NGOs to review and compare different datasets and methods of vulnerability index development, and to define and agree upon a process to develop local vulnerability indices for three global cities: London, New York and Shanghai. Our stakeholder team consists of representatives of urban planning and public health policymakers, local government and NGOs from the three case study cities. This work will represent an advance in the current research and practice as it will focus primarily on older populations, and will build upon extensive work undertaken in London and transfer it to New York and Shanghai.

Planned Impact

Our stakeholder team consists of representatives of urban planning and public health policymakers, local government and NGOs from the three case study cities. As part of our dissemination strategy, multiple paths will be pursued to maximise stakeholder benefit:
- A number of presentations in collaboration with our team and other partners will disseminate the findings of the project to our stakeholder team.
- Interested parties will also be able to access the data underlying the climate risk vulnerability mapping work for each one of the three case study cities, and provide insights and feedback regarding their specific requirements throughout the duration of the project. This will ensure that the direction of the project is in line with stakeholder needs.
- In addition to these outputs, a pack including best practice guidance and case studies will be produced that can be used by city and neighbourhood authorities to assess and prevent climate vulnerability, thus enabling more informed policy decisions.

In particular, the project outputs could assist urban planners and local government seasonal health policymakers identify urban neighbourhoods and populations at risk during extreme weather events, prioritise risk mitigation actions and take the necessary steps to prevent such risks in the long term through interventions at the invididual building and urban scale.

For example, the Mayor of London's Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 'Managing risks and increasing resilience' highlighted the research need "to map overheating risk and identify 'triple jeopardy' areas where urban heat island intensity, poor thermal performance of the housing and high personal vulnerability combine to create a high risk hotspot. [...] The Mayor will then work with partners to define who (e.g. a Registered Social Landlord) is best placed to manage the risk (for example by local urban greening, or building retrofitting measures)."
 
Description The Urban Heat Island effect occurs when heat is absorbed and released by buildings and other humanmade surfaces in urban environments, thus resulting in higher temperatures in cities compared to their rural surroundings. This is more pronounced in highly built-up areas with a lack of green surfaces and trees. Excess heat exposure can have detrimental impacts on human health, especially amongst the elderly and the chronically ill. As our climate becomes warmer due to climate change, the adverse health effects of the Urban Heat Island phenomenon will be exacerbated. Climate change impacts combined with population growth and an ageing population, are increasing the exposure and vulnerability of cities and people to extreme weather events. In global cities like London, New York and Shanghai, a significant proportion of vulnerable populations live in areas which are most affected by extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods. Methods which combine and draw upon several sources of data information are required to obtain a comprehensive understanding of current and future risks in these cities.

The SHARPER project investigated the seasonal health and climate change resilience of ageing and elderly urban populations for 3 global cities: London, New York and Shanghai. The study compiled satellite temperature data with information on social, environmental and economic factors that contribute to urban heat vulnerability, including population density, health, mobility and quality of housing to develop vulnerability indices. This allowed the identification of areas where the population is most at risk and provided estimates of the resilience of ageing and elderly populations in each city at a high spatial resolution.

The study found that the elderly in London Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets are most at risk of heat related illnesses during periods of hot weather, especially if suffering by health and mobility issues and/or living in poor quality housing.
Exploitation Route It is envisaged that the project outcomes will help architects, engineers, planners, urban designers, property developers, Local Authorities and other policymakers prioritise targeted responses and aid the design of measures relating to planning, design and management of climate-ready urban environments.

Action is needed by decision makers and planning and design professionals to implement 'win-win' measures which increase the resilience of vulnerable populations, such as elderly people, and contribute to wider sustainability and resilience priorities in cities.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://publications.arup.com/publications/s/sharper
 
Description The final report of the NERC / Arup Global Research Challenge funded project 'Seasonal Health, Ageing and Resilience in urban Populations and EnviRonments' (SHARPER) was launched in August 2016. The final SHARPER report and related infographics are publicly available and free to download from: http://publications.arup.com/publications/s/sharper The SHARPER project also received significant media attention with newspaper articles published in the Evening Standard, Infrastructure Intelligence and Cities Today. It is envisaged that the project outcomes will help architects, engineers, planners, urban designers, property developers, Local Authorities and other policymakers prioritise targeted responses and aid the design of measures relating to planning, design and management of climate-ready urban environments.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Contribution to the Committee on Climate Change Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact The report will feed into the development of the upcoming 2018 UK National Adaptation Programme, in conjunction with the national adaptation programmes of the devolved administrations. Based on the latest understanding of current, and future, climate risks and opportunities, vulnerability and adaptation, it outlined what the priorities should be for the UK Government in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation legislation and other actions.
URL https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/preparing-for-climate-change/climate-change-risk-a...
 
Description Participation in the Steering Group of the Zero Carbon Hub project Tackling Overheating in Buildings
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact This project translated what is known about the problem of overheating in UK homes into recommendations on the types of framework and actions that could be needed to address the issue in a systematic way tailored for different audiences, including government, industry and academic stakeholders.
URL http://www.zerocarbonhub.org/current-projects/tackling-overheating-buildings
 
Title Heat Vulnerability Index (HVI) of London 
Description As part of the SHARPER project, the HVI initially developed for London by Wolf and McGregor (2013) using Principal Component Analysis and nine proxy measures of heat risk was updated using risk factors for health effects of heat from new evidence and the identification of variables from the UK Census 2011. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The updated tool will allow Local Authorities and public health policymakers assess the intra-urban variability of vulnerability to heat wave events in the Greater London Area. 
 
Description Collaboration with Public Health England (PHE) 
Organisation Public Health England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Members of the SHARPER team advised PHE with respect to the revision of the Heatwave Plan for England 2015 in order to include heat-related risk mitigation actions related to building design and operation.
Collaborator Contribution The PHE are interested in case studies focusing on areas of London identified as being highly heat vulnerable in order to overlay a small number of indicators that are known individual risk factors for overheating and link it with health status, health behaviour and demographics, which could lead to a potential future data exchange.
Impact The output of this collaboration was a PHE public information leaflet on overheating in homes and actions that occupants can take to mitigate the risk of overheating. This was the result of a multi-disciplinary collaboration combining public health and built environment research.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with the Greater London Authority (GLA) 
Organisation Greater London Authority (GLA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Members of the SHARPER team are members of the GLA's Heat risk in London Group and are contributing to the Managing Heat Risk 8-point Action Plan.
Collaborator Contribution The GLA are currently mapping the work / outcomes / impacts the Mayor of London and external agencies are undertaking in relation to overheating in London.
Impact The main output will be a comprehensive Managing Heat Risk Action Plan for London. This collaboration is multi-disciplinary bringing together planning, policy, building construction and public health experts.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Presentation at the LCCP Heat Risk group meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Polly Turton from Arup presented the final outcomes of the SHARPER project on mapping heat vulnerability of older people in the three case study global cities (London, New York and Shanghai) at the LCCP Heat Risk group meeting that took place on 14th November 2016 in Arup.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://publications.arup.com/publications/s/sharper
 
Description Workshop on heat risk targeted interventions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Through discussion with the project partners, public health policymakers and other key stakeholders, targeted responses were developed for the urban ageing and elderly population. The responses that were developed span a range of spatial scales from neighbourhood scale to city scale and cover strategic, operational, social and physical interventions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016