Addressing the Public Health Emergency of Extreme Heat

David Eisenman's California State Senate testimony in support of AB 585

On June 29, 2021 David Eisenman testified to the California State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water in support of AB 585. We are proud to share his testimony, which highlights the impact of extreme heat on public health and opportunities for adapting to this threat.

GOOD MORNING, CHAIR STERN AND MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE. My name is David Eisenman, and I’m a physician at UCLA Health, Professor of Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, and Deputy Director of the UCLA Center for Healthy Climate Solutions. I’m here to ask for your vote in support of AB 585.

In an average year, extreme heat causes more deaths than hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and lightning combined, and some populations face a larger threat than others. The evidence shows that the most vulnerable members of society are at greatest risk from extreme heat. These include seniors, especially those living alone, members of impoverished communities, people with chronic diseases, outdoor workers, and young children and infants. For many of these vulnerable people, the biggest driver of hospitalizations and deaths is a lack of access to air-conditioned or cooled spaces, even if only for a few hours.

We know there are ways to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths. My own work, published in partnership with other UCLA researchers, has shown that having access to cooled spaces saves lives. Increasing the use of reflective surfaces or tree shade can save 1 in 4 lives otherwise lost in heat waves by reducing neighborhood and home temperatures. Other community-based strategies, from public health outreach campaigns to innovative solutions such as community resilience centers, are important ways to ensure that resilience and adaptation are locally driven. Together, these solutions not only provide daily benefits and resources, but also save lives, particularly in low-income and communities of color.

California has always been at the forefront of responding to climate change, and extreme heat is one of the biggest public health threats Californians face. AB 585 can support California’s ongoing leadership, creating the framework and providing the funds necessary to scale existing options, test innovative resilience solutions, and address a public health and health equity emergency. I respectfully ask for your vote in support of AB 585. Thank you.

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