Heatwaves Pose Greater Risks to People with Disabilities, Lancet Study Reveals
Heatwaves Pose Greater Risks to People with Disabilities, Lancet Study Reveals

A recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal has highlighted how heatwaves disproportionately affect people with disabilities compared to those without, leading to increased hospitalizations and medical costs. Researchers from Pusan National University in South Korea examined data from the Korean National Health Insurance Service-National Sample Cohort database to understand the impact of extreme heat on emergency admissions during warm seasons (June to September).

The study focused on individuals with four types of disabilities: physical disabilities, brain lesion disorders, vision impairments, and hearing impairments. It found that people with disabilities were at twice the risk of hospitalization compared to the general population, particularly due to mental and respiratory diseases exacerbated by heat.

Specifically, the research revealed a fourfold increase in emergency admissions and seven times higher medical costs among people with disabilities during heatwaves. Among this group, those with brain lesion disorders, severe physical disabilities, women, and individuals older than 65 years were identified as being more vulnerable to extreme heat.

Lead researcher Whanhee Lee emphasized the study's findings, pointing out the disparities in healthcare access and the urgent need for public health policies tailored to support people with disabilities in the face of climate change.

"As far as we know, there are still a limited number of guidelines against climate change in the context of people with disabilities. Our study sheds light on the importance of considering this population when developing climate change guidelines," said Whanhee Lee.

The authors recommended that public health policies include practical measures to address the diverse needs of people with disabilities, alongside healthcare training that considers their medical conditions and the impact of climate change on their health. Such initiatives align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for equal healthcare access and climate action.

This study underscores the necessity of informed and inclusive public health policies to protect vulnerable populations during extreme weather events.

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