The "HeWeCon" project from the BMBF funding measure "Junior Research Groups Global Change: Climate, Environment and Health" researches the effects of weather on human health
Climate change leads to extreme weather such as heavy rain or heat. That is why the junior research group HeWeCon is investigating the consequences of different weather conditions on physical and mental health.
Climate change is leading to more frequent, intense and prolonged extreme weather events, such as heat, storms and floods, which have a negative impact on population health and healthcare. These negative impacts will intensify in the future. Children and older people in particular, as well as people with pre-existing health challenges, are at increased risk during heat, for example.
The aim of the junior research group "HeWeCon" (Health Effects of Weather Conditions) is to investigate the effects of weather conditions on health. HeWeCon aims to uncover both health-impairing weather conditions and weather-dependent health conditions, especially those that have not been extensively studied so far.
The scientists of the junior research group are investigating direct and indirect correlations between weather and health in an exploratory manner. For this purpose, anonymised health insurance data are used, through which individual characteristics and risk factors such as gender, age, need for care as well as previous illnesses can be taken into account. These data are combined with data from weather stations of the German Weather Service, among others, using modern statistical methods. A risk prediction tool will be developed to assess and evaluate the risk of vulnerable people under the identified weather conditions.
The researchers are also investigating and forecasting effects in health economics that can be caused by and attributed to extreme weather events. These include, for example, incapacity to work, which increases the costs of health care.
The new digital risk prediction tool can be implemented as a weather warning system. It allows risk groups to be targeted according to health-relevant weather conditions - people can be made aware of risks at an early stage and motivated to take preventive action. At the same time, the tool can predict the increased use of health services under certain weather conditions. This can, for example, support resource planning in emergency health care facilities. The tool can also be used to quantify the health and, in particular, health economic burden caused by extreme weather events. These effects can be soundly estimated with the help of climate models, taking into account various scenarios. This will underpin the debate on necessary climate adaptation measures with scientific data.
The BMBF is funding HeWeCon with around 1.5 million euros from 2023 to 2028.
Dr Claudia Konnopka
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Institute for Health Economics and Health Services Research
Martinistr. 52, 20246 Hamburg
Phone: +49 (0) 40 7410-54480
Prof. Dr. Hans-Helmut König (University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf)
Prof. Dr. Felix Ament (University of Hamburg)
Christian Günster (Wissenschaftliches Institut der AOK)
Prof. Dr. Martin Spindler (University of Hamburg)