Kerala under-reports illnesses related to heat: central expert

Only 25% of public healthcare institutions in the state report such cases to the Centre; the state should strengthen its heat and health surveillance system, says Abhiyant Tiwari
Image used for representation
Image used for representation

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as Kerala sweltered under a hostile summer, the state “significantly under-reported heat-related illnesses”, National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) health and climate resilience lead Abhiyant Tiwari has said.

In an exclusive interaction with TNIE, Tiwari said only 25% of public healthcare institutions in the state reported such incidents to central authorities. Gujarat, at 95%, leads in reporting of such cases while Telangana comes second with 83%, he said.

A leading climate resilience and health consultant, Tiwari was part of the development and implementation of the first Heat Action Plan (HAP) of South Asia in 2013. “Kerala should strengthen its heat and health surveillance system,” he said, on the sidelines of a workshop on ‘Impact of Extreme Heat on Kerala’ organised by the Kerala Union for Working Journalists (KUWJ) in collaboration with ASAR in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.

The National Programme on Climate Change and Human Health (NPCCHH) – under the Ministry of health and Family Welfare – has been collecting heat-related health illness and mortality data from every state since 2018-19 to come up with policies and programmes to review the impact and to increase national level preparedness.

Image used for representation
Heatwave sparks surge in waterborne diseases in Kerala

“I was surprised that the cases in Kerala were under-reported. Only 25% of the public sector health facilities report data to NPCCHH. Kerala, being a pioneer in the health sector, could do better. The state did a wonderful job during the pandemic and the overall public awareness is much better compared to any other state in the country. But the state is still not at par with our expectation when it comes to heat-health surveillance,” Tiwari said.

Abhiyant Tiwari
Abhiyant Tiwari

"The state should set an example by coming up with technical solutions. I am sure heat health is something (for which) Kerala can set an example,” he added.

An effective early warning system could help reduce mortality rate due to disaster by eight times, he pointed out.

“What Kerala and any other state should be doing is to come up with strategies and policies to mitigate disasters and increase preparedness. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is preparing strategic policies and new frameworks for various sectors like agriculture, fishing and many more that can be adapted by the states for better preparedness and mitigation,” he said.

The 15th financial commission has allocated special funds for disaster risk mitigation and the NDMA wants the states to come up with projects and policies to tap these funds, he said.

“This is besides the national disaster response fund. Instead of claiming funds for the deceased, the state should be ideally tapping funds for prevention and mitigation of disasters, and come up with proactive measures to deal with the climate crisis,” Tiwari added.

KSDMA to revise Heat Action Plan

Thiruvananthapuram: Given the extreme heat situation, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority is gearing up to revise and update the Heat Action Plan (HAP) to increase heat-related preparedness. Hazard analyst Fahad Marzooq of KSDMA said heat clinics will start functioning at public healthcare institutions in the state from next year. He was speaking at the media workshop on ‘Impact of Extreme Heat on Kerala’ organised by the district committee of Kerala Union for Working Journalists (KUWJ) in collaboration

with ASAR in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday. Cusat Advanced Centre for Atmospheric Radar Research director S Abhilash said that land use pattern and rapid urbanisation has led to heat island effect in Kerala, aggravating hot and humid weather. He pointed out that the temperature at night has also increased. A total of 1,441 heat-related health incidents were reported in the state in the past three months, said National Programme for Climate Change and Human Health nodal officer for the state M S Manu.

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