Arlene Oetomo

PhD student, Public Health and Health Systems
Arlene Oetomo.


PhD Public Health and Health Systems 

Graduate supervisor  

Plinio Morita

My thesis

Two decades ago, during the sweltering Northeast Blackout of 2003, we hastily consumed melting ice cream from our powerless freezer. This early experience and rising concern over climate change steered my research focus towards increasingly frequent and deadly heat waves, like Canada's 2021 Heat Dome.

My work, at the intersection of health, climate change, and technology, focuses on a critical question: 'How hot does it get inside homes without air conditioning?' Leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) technology, I utilize smart thermostats and explore gathering hyper-local data, offering insights into indoor heat levels during extreme heat events. These findings are crucial for enhancing early-warning systems and community-based heat health programs, especially in underserved populations (like individuals living in community housing) most vulnerable to these events.

The escalating challenge of heat waves demands a multidisciplinary approach, integrating urban planning, engineering, and public health expertise. As part of this collective effort, we tested an off-the-shelf solution enabling near real-time temperature alerts to mitigate the impact of extreme heat on equity deserving populations, ensuring their safety and resilience. By sharing the experiences of those affected by heat waves, I hope this work informs indoor temperature legislation by exposing the temperatures experienced in un-air-conditioned homes and ensuring that holistic (nature-based) solutions are implemented.

My time in the School of Public Health Sciences (SPHS)

My experience at the School of Public Health Sciences has been incredibly enriching. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, I am so grateful for the wonderful, supportive friendships of my peers. These relationships were not just confined to the classroom but have extended beyond in the most uncertain times. 

The time at SPHS has also been marked by incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth. In 2022, I completed several trips to Vancouver and Ottawa to collect data for my thesis and meet incredibly kind and generous participants who invited us into their homes. I had the privilege of living abroad in Bordeaux, France for a semester, an experience that broadened my perspectives and understanding of academia. Additionally, speaking and learning at numerous conferences, both locally and internationally. These events were not just platforms for learning and sharing knowledge, but also invaluable for networking with passionate and like-minded individuals. They opened doors to potential collaborations and offered insights into the diverse paths available in the field of public health, especially valuable for someone at the early stages of their career.

In summary, my journey through the School of Public Health Sciences has been a blend of meaningful connections, academic enrichment, and professional development, all of which have left an indelible mark on my career trajectory and personal growth.

Learn more about Arlene’s research.

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