Wellbeing in a heating city

Wellbeing in a heating city Advertorial by Meg Hill

Melburnians look forward to summer every year, but for some groups within the community high temperatures can pose serious health risks. 

The CBD environment adds its own complexities to heat health. As climate change escalates, the City of Melbourne has prioritised heat health.

Between 1981 and 2010 Melbourne experienced, on average, 8.3 days per year above 35 degrees. In 2018 there were 10 days above that temperature. CSIRO modelling suggests that by the 2050s this could increase to between 13 and 21 days on average.

Marina Rahovistas, a senior environmental health officer at the council, said there were a number of groups which council action particularly focused on.

“Some of those are senior members of the community – 65-year-olds and older, and infants and children,” Marina said. 

“But there’s also groups like international students, residents and visitors who don’t know the local weather, as well as low socioeconomic groups that of course includes those experiencing homelessness.”

Marina also highlighted how the residential nature of the CBD complicates heat health. 

“With a heat wave there are often power outages, so people in apartments really need to know who their neighbours are,” she said.

“People need to know if there are elderly people there, or someone else who’s vulnerable, who needs assistance so they can check on them. They could also engage with body corporate groups to discuss the risks and what to do when a heatwave event occurs.”

Going into summer, the council has engaged in pre-emptive communication with vulnerable community members and aims to ensures that all resources are available while urging people to plan ahead.

When bad days hit, alerts go out to different channels and create a “ripple effect”.

“Once I send out all those messages to all the relevant work areas, all the service agencies, then they put their plans into action,” Marina said.

That might mean, for example, service providers going out to check on the people they care for. Another example is a collaboration between CoHealth and the council to deliver a homeless brokerage program.

“When we send those heat health alerts out, CoHealth issues resources like movie passes and pool passes to people experiencing homelessness in the City of Melbourne, so they can have respite in some cool spaces.”

Council prioritises giving advice and making sure community members think ahead, as it’s often small things that can make a big difference.

“We try and make sure people do keep their homes cool, that they do simple things like close curtains, hydrating themselves, knowing where cool places are around the city if they have to go out,” she said.

Council’s head of the people city portfolio Cr Beverley Pinder said the City of Melbourne is well prepared for extreme summer conditions this year.

“Extreme heat is a danger we face every summer here in Melbourne,” Cr Pinder said.

“We want to educate people on the risks associated with extreme heat and provide practical advice and services to help them respond.”

“Simple things like staying hydrated and finding cool places to rest can go a long way toward protecting vulnerable people.”

“We have more than 60 water fountains installed across the city so you can access free water at key sites such as Swanston Street, Bourke Street Mall, and in recreational areas such as the Tan Track.”

“We also operate four public pools where people can relax and escape the summer heat.”

For more information, visit melbourne.vic.gov.au/heatwaves

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