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Heat-related mortality at the beginning of the twenty-first century in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Temperature record-breaking events, such as the observed more intense, longer-lasting, and more frequent heat waves, pose a new global challenge to health sectors worldwide. These threats are of particular interest in low-income regions with limited investments in public health and a growing urban population, such as Brazil. Here, we apply a comprehensive interdisciplinary climate-health approach, including meteorological data and a daily mortality record from the Brazilian Health System from 2000 to 2015, covering 21 cities over the Metropolitan Region of Rio de Janeiro. The percentage of absolute mortality increase due to summer extreme temperatures is estimated using a negative binomial regression modeling approach and maximum/minimum temperature-derived indexes as covariates. Moreover, this study assesses the vulnerability to thermal stress for different age groups and both genders and thoroughly analyzes four extremely intense heat waves during 2010 and 2012 regarding their impacts on the population. Results showed that the highest absolute mortality values during heat-related events were linked to circulatory illnesses. However, the highest excess of mortality was related to diabetes, particularly for women within the elderly age groups. Moreover, results indicate that accumulated heat stress conditions during consecutive days preferentially preceded by persistent periods of moderate-temperature, lead to higher excess mortality rather than sporadic single hot days. This work may provide directions in human health policies related to extreme climate events in large tropical metropolitan areas from developing countries, contributing to altering the historically based purely reactive response.

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This work was partially funded by project INDECIS, which is part of ERA4CS, an ERA-NET initiated by JPI Climate, with co-funding by the European Union (grant 690462). Renata Libonati was supported by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPQ, grant 305159/2018-6) and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ, grant E26/202.714/2019). Lucas C.O. Castro was supported by the Programa Institucional de Bolsas de Iniciação Científica – Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (PIBIC-UFRJ).

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Correspondence to João L. Geirinhas.

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Geirinhas, J.L., Russo, A., Libonati, R. et al. Heat-related mortality at the beginning of the twenty-first century in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Int J Biometeorol 64, 1319–1332 (2020).

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  • Extreme events
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Extreme heat factor
  • Heat waves
  • Mortality levels