Public health effects of climate change and extreme-weather conditions


Policymakers should mitigate the immediate effects of climate change events on the health of older adults and other vulnerable populations. This includes ensuring affordable access to heating and cooling, particularly during extreme temperature days (see also Energy). 

During extreme-weather or climate-related events, policymakers should: 

  • provide immediate assistance to vulnerable populations, particularly those with chronic health conditions that are exacerbated by the effects of climate change; and 
  • address the needs of people with disabilities, who may have greater difficulty evacuating or otherwise getting assistance during an emergency. 

Policymakers should devise plans for the environmental, socioeconomic, and infrastructural impacts of climate change on the health of older adults and other vulnerable populations. Those plans should include ways to prevent and mitigate adverse impacts. 

Federal, state, and local governments should work to mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme-weather conditions by: 

  • expanding (and simplifying) eligibility and increasing funding for weatherization programs and affordable energy programs, including but not limited to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), 
  • prioritizing home weatherization programs that target the medically frail, 
  • identifying and implementing best practices for educating people about the risks, 
  • facilitating weather protection and operating emergency alert systems, and 
  • identifying and maintaining emergency locations for heating and cooling for displaced people in extreme weather. 

To prevent and mitigate the potentially adverse health effects of climate change on older people, all levels of government should: 

  • expand categorical eligibility for LIHEAP, weatherization services, and other affordable energy programs in order to target groups identified as most at risk of adverse health outcomes—possible participants can be identified through eligibility for state Medicaid waiver programs and the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy or other programs (see also Energy Affordability for details on Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs); 
  • make referrals for LIHEAP, weatherization, and other affordable energy programs; 
  • support education and outreach efforts to increase awareness about weatherization programs—both within the health care community and among older adults, their families, and caregivers—of resources that can help people maintain access to healthy and comfortable temperatures; 
  • give priority to in-home repair or modification programs that serve medically frail participants (such as under a state Medicaid waiver) so they can have access to cost-effective energy efficiency measures that protect health and safety, such as special coatings for flat-roofed row houses that lower indoor temperatures in summer; and 
  • identify and implement best practices for communicating with the public—especially older adults, their families, and their caregivers—about the risks of heat waves and cold temperatures, links between temperature and health, and the most effective prevention, education, and response efforts.