Heat literacy and adaptation among semi-rural community in Malaysia

Syahrul Nellis, Min Thu, Mohd Roshidi Ismail, Sandra Barteit, Darwin Gouwanda, Till Bärnighausen, Tin Tin Su

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Heatwaves present health risks globally but there is limited evidence on how temperature perceptions affect activities. This study aimed to examine community perceptions of heat as a potential health hazard and ascertain the current heat protection measures of the residents of the South East Asia Community Observatory (SEACO) in Malaysia. METHODS: In this longitudinal study, we randomly selected community members aged between 18 and 70 years who resided in Segamat district of Johor state, Malaysia. Over 21 days, we conducted three home visits to each participant. During each visit, participants completed a questionnaire consisting of Likert scale, multiple choice, and free text questions and we collected quantitative and qualitative data. These inquiries assessed the participants' perception of heat as health threat, whether or not they took heat preventive measures, and the specific protective measures they routinely employed. Descriptive data analyses were conducted and patterns of protective measures were investigated. FINDINGS: Between March 29 and July 31, 2023, 120 participants (72 women and 48 men) completed 360 questionnaires over three home visits. Initially, 58% participants recognised heat hazards to daily activities, decreasing to 42% and 35% by visits 2 and 3. Participants took preventive measures throughout the day, which was consistently high between 1200 h and 1400 h, with 77% of participants taking preventive measures on visit 1, 82% on visit 2, and 82% on visit 3. Use of preventive measures was also high between 1400 h and 1730 h, with 77% using preventive measure on visit 1, 81% on visit 2, and 79% on visit 3. The most common protective measures were fans (used by 68-88% of participants), drinking more water (70-78% of participants), and resting (44-72% of participants). The least common were relocating to cooler places, removing clothes, and using wet towels (0-2·5%). Despite high temperatures, perceptions of heat risks decreased over time. Participants took basic protections, especially at midday, but improved literacy and affordable cooling options are needed to protect vulnerable rural populations. INTERPRETATION: Our findings underline the need to improve heat literacy and adaptation as only half of the population assessed perceived heat as a potential health hazard and practised limited heat protective measures. Addressing climate change and health necessitates fundamental behavioural changes on the part of individuals and communities, to protect them against the adverse effects of heat. FUNDING: Monash University Malaysia and Heidelberg Institute of Global Health, Heidelberg University.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S8
Number of pages1
JournalThe Lancet. Planetary health
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024
EventPlanetary Health Summit and Annual Meeting 2024 - Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia
Duration: 15 Apr 202419 Apr 2024
Conference number: 6th
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/issue/vol8nonull/PIIS2542-5196(24)X0005-4 (published abstracts)

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