Members of the NAR-Kolleg


Alina Vandenbergh Dr. Alina Vandenbergh

Network Aging Research
Bergheimer Straße 20
69115 Heidelberg

Fellows: Prof. Dr. Rainer Sauerborn



The role of general practitioners in preventing heat-related health-risks for the elderly in the community in Baden-Württemberg, Germany


Within climate impact research the effect of extreme heat on health has been of special interest since the great European heat wave of 2003. As heat waves are likely to increase in duration, intensity and frequency, they pose an increasing threat to the health of European citizens (Astrom et al., 2011). An especially vulnerable subgroup is the population aged over 75. Besides the controversially discussed contribution of frailty, this population group is especially at risk, as they show higher rates of dementia, chronic cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, as well as lower ability to care for themselves. All of these variables are found to be risk factors for higher mortality during heat waves(Hajat et al., 2010).

Many European countries set up Heatwave-Warning-System (HWS) within the last decade. The HWS of Baden-Württemberg directs heatwarnings to the public and to nursing homes in order to reach the most vulnerable of the elderly directly. Still, 89% of the people aged 75 and older in Baden-Württemberg live in the community without any professional help. They are not addressed specifically in the HWS of Baden-Württemberg, although many HWSs of other European countries do so(Lowe et al., 2011). One way for doing this is to involve general practitioners (GPs) into public health prevention strategies. In Germany’s health system GPs are important stakeholders, which are in contact with the elderly in the community. Thus, their involvement into the HWS of BW could enhance the protection of this risk group during heat waves.


Research objective and methods

The study aims at developing recommendations for the prevention of heat related health risks for the elderly living in the community in Baden-Württemberg by involving GPs. Qualitative methods are applied. In the first part of this study explorative expert interviews are conducted in order to work out how GPs can contribute best to the prevention of heat-related health-risks within the HWS of Baden-Württemberg. Henceforth semi-structured interviews with GPs will be conducted. Herein the following topics will be covered:

  • Heat-related health risks for the elderly: GP’s perceptions and experiences
  • Prevention of heat-related health risks for the elderly: approaches taken and barriers perceived in GPs’ daily routine
  • Public health prevention strategies of heat-related health risks for the elderly: strategies worked out in the explorative expert interviews are discussed with GPs

By analyzing the qualitative data and taking into account the latest literature, recommendations for involving GPs in Baden-Württemberg into the prevention of heat related health risks for the elderly living in the community will be made.



  • Astrom, D. O., Forsberg, B., & Rocklov, J. (2011). Heat wave impact on morbidity and mortality in the elderly population: a review of recent studies. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't Review]. Maturitas, 69(2), 99-105. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.03.008
  • Becker, P., Bucher, K., Grätz, A., Koppe, C., & Laschewski, G. (2007). Das medizin-meteorologische Informationsangebot für den Gesundheitssektor und die Öffentlichkeit. Promet  Biometeorologie des Menschen, 33(3/4), 140 - 147.
  • Bundesregierung. (2011). Aktionsplan zur Deutschen Anpassungsstrategie an den Klimawandel.  Berlin.
  • Gebhardt, D. H., & Höpker, D. K. (2012). Klimawandel in Baden-Wuerttemberg - Infoheft. In K. u. E. B.-W. Ministerium für Umwelt & M. u. N. B. LUBW (Landesanstalt für Umwelt (Eds.), (pp. 12-15 ). Stuttgart.
  • Gov. Italy. (2012). Piano operativo regionale di intervento per la prevenzione degli effetti sulla salute delle ondate di calore - Hitzewarnsystem der Region Lazio, Italien.
  • Hajat, S., O'Connor, M., & Kosatsky, T. (2010). Health effects of hot weather: from awareness of risk factors to effective health protection. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't Review]. Lancet, 375(9717), 856-863. doi: 10.1016/s01406736(09)61711-6
  • IPCC. (2012). Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation: special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Jendritzky, G., Koppe, C., & Holst, T. (2005). KLARA, Klimawandel - Auswirkungen, Risiken, Anpassung in Baden-Württemberg M. Stock & F.-W. Gerstengarbe (Eds.),  
  • Kovats, R. S., & Kristie, L. E. (2006). Heatwaves and public health in Europe. The European Journal of Public Health, 16(6), 592-599.
  • Lowe, D., Ebi, K. L., & Forsberg, B. (2011). Heatwave early warning systems and adaptation advice to reduce human health consequences of heatwaves. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't Review]. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 8(12), 4623-4648. doi: 10.3390/ijerph8124623
  • Matthies, F., Bickler, G., & Marin, N. C. (2008). Heat-health action plans: guidance: Who.
  • Meehl, G. A., & Tebaldi, C. (2004). More intense, more frequent, and longer lasting heat waves in the 21st century. Science, 305(5686), 994-997. doi: 10.1126/science.1098704.



since 10/2008 Studentin der Humanmedizin an der Universität Heidelberg
since 9/2012 Member of the NAR Kolleg, Heidelberg University






Editor: Email
Latest Revision: 2021-09-20
zum Seitenanfang/up