Jump to Main Content
Google search patterns monitoring the daily health impact of heatwaves in England: How do the findings compare to established syndromic surveillance systems from 2013 to 2017?
- Green, Helen K., Edeghere, Obaghe, Elliot, Alex J., Cox, Ingemar J., Morbey, Roger, Pebody, Richard, Bone, Angie, McKendry, Rachel A., Smith, Gillian E.
- Environmental research 2018 v.166 pp. 707-712
- Internet, climate change, health services, heat, monitoring, morbidity, observational studies, public health, summer, England
- One of the implications of climate change is a predicted increase in frequent and severe heatwaves. The impact of heatwaves on the health of the population is captured through real-time syndromic healthcare surveillance systems monitored daily in England during the summer months. Internet search data could potentially provide improved timeliness and help to assess the wider population health impact of heat by capturing a population sub-group who are symptomatic but do not seek healthcare. A retrospective observational study was carried out from June 2013 to September 2017 in England to compare daily trends in validated syndromic surveillance heat-related morbidity indicators against symptom-based heatwave related Google search terms. The degree of correlation was determined with Spearman correlation coefficients and lag assessment was carried out to determine timeliness. Daily increases in frequency in Google search terms during heatwave events correlated well with validated syndromic indicators. Correlation coefficients between search term frequency and syndromic indicators from 2013 to 2017 were highest with the telehealth service NHS 111 (range of 0.684–0.900 by search term). Lag analysis revealed a similar timeliness between the data sources, suggesting Google data did not provide a delayed or earlier signal in the context of England's syndromic surveillance systems. This work highlights the potential benefits for countries which lack established public health surveillance systems to monitor heat-related morbidity and the use of internet search data to assess the wider population health impact of exposure to heat.