Public Perception of the Health and Social Risks of Extreme Heat in Northern Ghana
This research is carried out by Shamsu-Deen Ziblim1, Victor Mogre2, Sophia E.A. Kpebu2, Bright Y. Amoore2, Bruce A. Abugri2, Rayza Sison3, Laud Boateng3, Rajesh Vedathan3 with funding support from the Global Disaster Preparedness Center.
The health risks of extreme heat hinge on not only on exposure but also on behavioral related, which are often related to perceived risk. It is clear that risks perceptions vary at multiple scales across the globe taking into account the climatic and the socio-economic variables between the developed and the developing nations. Some populations are seen to be more vulnerable taking into accounts residential status. In northern Ghana, a largely agrarian economy, extreme heat threatens population health, worsens poverty, and exacerbates social disparities. However, there is limited data regarding the perceptions of community dwellers on how extreme heat may threaten population health. We explored the public perceptions of the health and social risk of extreme heat in northern Ghana. The exploratory qualitative study identified diverse knowledge, awareness and experiences regarding climate change and extreme heat. Participants identified the unpredictability of timing and duration of extreme heat, identified its significant impact on their health and livelihoods. They adopted an array of coping mechanisms and strategies to mitigate the effects of extreme heat. They noted the impact of the nature of their buildings, rooms and settings and how these impact on the severity of the effects of extreme heat on their health and well-being. Aggravated disparities in responses and measures to mitigate the effects of extreme were more pronounced among rural and urban poor people and the elderly.
Extreme heat has been described by these rural and urban folks as one of their biggest climate change issues through their personal experiences and its effects on their health and livelihoods. They are very much aware of the coping mechanisms to overcome the effects of extreme heat and have demonstrated an adoption of some of those strategies. There are also structural and economic barriers that prevent the adoption of other coping mechanisms such as having access to cooling fans, air conditioners and regular supply power. These barriers become more aggravated especially among urban and rural poor people and the elderly making them more vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat.
1School of Public Health, University for Development Studies, Tamale, Ghana
2School of Medicine, University for Development Studies, Tamale, Ghana
3NYU Langone Health, Section for Global Health