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Home care workers’ health risks of exposure to heat waves

Solutions for human adaptation to climate change in the context of working life extension

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At a glance



Climate change is increasing the likelihood of heatwaves. Their duration and intensity are becoming more extreme, especially in urban areas. Heatwaves represent a significant health risk for all people. But for some socio-economic groups, such as home care professionals, they are especially challenging.

First, home care professionals are even more exposed than usual in hot weather, as their clients are particularly vulnerable to the heat. Second, the work of home care professionals consists of physically demanding and cognitively complex activities that are even more strenuous in hot weather. Thirdly, hom care professionals have little control over their thermal environment (e.g. cooling or shade) as they are out and about in their clients' homes.

Research questions

In our study, we investigate the health risks caused by heat for Spitex healthcare professionals, with a particular interest in the risks for older employees. We focus on four dimensions of health: stress, sleep, cognitive and mental health. In collaboration with employees and their employers, we develop measures for dealing with heat and test their effect.


The study is being conducted at home care organizations in German-speaking Switzerland and Ticino. While many people are familiar with key measures for dealing with heat, implementing them is not always easy, especially in a working context. We use a participatory approach to develop the measures, considering the experiences of the employees and their employers. We also use the latest information and communication technologies (e.g. smartwatches) and develop our own app to provide employees with objective and easily accessible information on dealing with heat in real time. We evaluate the impact of these measures using a randomized controlled trial design.

Expected benefits

In the context of climate change and skills shortages in the health care sector, effective strategies to adapt to extreme heat events are not only in the interest of employees, but also of employers and the public. Our results should help to identify measures that effectively reduce health risks from extreme heat and best meet the needs of home care professionals and their employers. We expect to gain insights specifically for older employees in a sector that is heavily dominated by women. This should enable our results to be transferred to other organizations, companies and sectors.