The Health Care Costs of Extreme Heat

June 2023

Contact: Steven Woolf

Extreme heat graph

“A new report produced by an interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff and students at Virginia Commonwealth University and published by the Center for American Progress is shedding light on the connections between rising heat and harm to health. The report, titled “The Health Care Costs of Extreme Heat,” sets the stage to discuss heat’s impact by recalling recent heat events that have collectively harmed and hospitalized thousands of people.

The researchers used available data in Virginia to estimate the increase in health care utilization associated with extreme heat, such as emergency department visits, hospital admissions and the health care costs those services generated. Daily climate data collected from 15 weather stations serving Virginia showed that an average of 80 heat event days occurred per summer from 2016 to 2020. Based on insurance claims data from Virginia’s All-Payer Claims (APC) database, the researchers calculated that heat events each summer result in:

Almost 400 additional ambulatory care visits for heat-related illness.
Almost 7,000 additional emergency department visits, including more than 4,600 visits for heat-related or heat-adjacent illness.
Almost 2,000 extra heat-related hospital admissions, mostly for heat-adjacent illness.
Extrapolated nationally, the researchers found that heat event days would be responsible for almost 235,000 emergency department visits and more than 56,000 hospital admissions for heat-related or heat-adjacent illness, adding approximately $1 billion in costs every summer.

“One of the key goals of this report is to help the public understand the implications of extreme heat on health,” said Steven Woolf, M.D., a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at the VCU School of Medicine and one of the co-authors of the report. “Unless we take action to mitigate the effects of climate change, heat events are projected to keep increasing in frequency, resulting in an even greater blow to public health.”

Woolf is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and director emeritus of the VCU Center on Society and Health.” 

Weinstein, D. (2023, July 17). Interdisciplinary study from VCU reveals health care costs of extreme heat. VCU News.…

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