University of Portsmouth academics are speaking in the House of Commons later today (20 November), calling for a heat resilience strategy to protect the most vulnerable members of society from the effects of climate change.
Professor Mike Tipton MBE and Dr Zoe Saynor have contributed to a new report, Developing a Human-centred National Health Resilience Strategy, by The Physiological Society in partnership with the Faculty of Public Health.
The report calls for the formation of a heat resilience strategy focused on improving the understanding of how heat impacts our bodies, especially vulnerable groups. The report also details a path to an evidence-led, joined-up strategy to protect the most vulnerable through a series of recommendations ranging from ‘expanding early warning systems’ to ‘developing a physiologically-informed plan for workers during extreme heat events’.
Report Launch: Developing a Heat Resilience Strategy
Professor Tipton is Professor of Human and Applied Physiology at the Extreme Environments Laboratory in the School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth and Chair of The Physiological Society’s Policy Committee as well as one of The Society’s Trustees.
He said: “The UK is getting hotter because of climate change and this has significant potential to impact a whole range of groups, some of them vulnerable groups and other groups like people who are at work, the elderly, the young, people with co-morbidities.
Physiology is absolutely critical to doing the right things to adapt and mitigate these challenges of heat, but physiology can’t work alone.
Professor Mike Tipton, Extreme Environments Laboratory in the School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science
“Physiology is absolutely critical to doing the right things to adapt and mitigate these challenges of heat, but physiology can’t work alone. We have to work in collaboration with architects, public health officials, clinicians, botanists, town planners, and in that way we can get to the optimum solution for the challenges ahead.”
Dr Saynor, Associate Professor in Clinical Exercise Physiology in the School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth, added: “We know that people living with pre-existing conditions -whether that’s cardiovascular or respiratory conditions, obesity or older adults -have an impaired ability to thermoregulate that puts them at an increased risk.
We need a much better understanding of how heat affects different individuals, not only their physiology but also the external environment and the relationship between the two.
Associate Professor Dr Zoe Saynor, School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth
“We need a much better understanding of how heat affects different individuals, not only their physiology but also the external environment and the relationship between the two. There are people living with rare diseases who may be even more vulnerable to hot conditions. One example is people living with cystic fibrosis. We know that they lose a lot more salt in their sweat, so these are groups we really need to be concerned about and we urgently need physiological research to understand the different mechanisms of their physiology and to build the strategies to help people in these hot conditions that they will increasingly face.”
Why do we need a heat resilience strategy?
Professor Tipton’s research focuses on the physiological and psychological responses to adverse environments and the selection, preparation and protection of those who enter such environments and his research underpins the RNLI "Fight your Instincts" and Float First" campaign. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2018 for "services to physiological research in extreme environments”.
Recently he has contributed to a number of reports and meetings on climate change from The Physiological Society; the largest group of physiologists in Europe. The reports have highlighted policy priorities for Government in response to climate change’s impact on human health, as well as identifying areas of gaps in research that need to be addressed.
Dr Zoe Saynor is an Associate Professor in Clinical Exercise Physiology and lead for both the Physical Activity, Health and Rehabilitation Thematic Research Group and Clinical, Health and Rehabilitation research Team (CHaRT) within the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth. She is an honorary researcher at several NHS Trusts and an Accredited Clinical Exercise Physiologist.
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