top of page

Center For Environmental Physiology

Established in 1981, the Center for Environmental Physiology was a private, non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. From 1981 to 1991, the Center served as the primary national source of information about the adverse health effects of heat and cold stress.


The Center was instrumental in bringing these important issues to the attention of the newspaper, radio, and television news media as well as key stakeholders such as congressional committees; federal, state, and local government agencies; public health, social service, and aging organizations; special interest groups; and the general public.

Mission and Objective

The Center's mission was to reduce heat and cold stress morbidity and mortality by increasing national awareness of the danger posed by extremes of hot and cold weather, especially to vulnerable groups like the elderly, infants under one year of age, and the homeless.

The Center's objective was to place heat and cold stress on the national health agenda. A critical element of this strategy was to frame the issues in a manner that would result in strong bipartisan congressional support, particularly within key congressional committees.

Research and program activities at the Center were devoted to bridging the gap between basic scientific and medical research on the physiological effects of hot and cold weather and the practical application of that knowledge in support of national policy and public health. 

National Education Campaign

The Center designed and implemented the first national public health and safety campaign on heat and cold stress, which was launched in January, 1984, with the endorsement and support of the U.S. Administration on Aging and the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, and startup funding from the American Gas Association.


Experts were in agreement that preventive health education and sound community planning could help to avert future hot weather tragedies such as, those that occurred during the national heat wave of 1980, and could significantly reduce the mortality from accidental hypothermia in cold weather.

Public Private Partnerships

At the national level, the campaign operated primarily as a public/private partnership between the Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Gas Association, and the Center for Environmental Physiology.


Coalition Building

Other participating government agencies included the office of the U.S. Surgeon General, the Social Security Administration's Office of Family Assistance, ACTION's Older Americans Volunteer Programs, the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The National Center for Health Statistics and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also made important contributions to this effort by providing critical health statistics and climate data.

Praise For The Program

United States House of Representatives

As former Chairman of the Select Committee on Aging and of its Subcommittee on Health and Long Term Care, I am well aware of the serious effects of hypothermia on older Americans. The work of your group has been instrumental in bringing this health problem to the attention of the public and health professionals, and I fully support your efforts to develop a national education campaign.

Claude Pepper

Chairman, House Rules Committee

United States Senate

I want to let you know that your efforts to disseminate information on this condition (hypothermia) are important and valuable. The Background Papers you have prepared in conjunction with the Administration on Aging will greatly enhance public understanding of this problem. I would like to encourage you to follow up on your work on cold stress with an aggressive education campaign on heat stress. The Center has my strong support and I hope you will call on me for any assistance I can provide.

Lawton Chiles, Ranking Minority Member and Former Chairman

Senate Committee on Aging

United States Senate

The Center for Environmental Physiology, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., which conducts research on heat and cold stress, is presently coordinating the development of a national demonstration program to focus on the health of older Americans during hot and cold weather. The cooperation and expertise of the center, and its executive director, W. Moulton Avery, has proven invaluable in the development of this publication on heat stress. Heat Stress and Older Americans: Problems and Solutions.

John Heinz, Chairman

John Glen, Ranking Minority Member

Special Committee on Aging

United States Senate

National Institute on Aging

I commend your efforts to develop a model program on educational outreach on accidental hypothermia.

Dr. Robert N. Butler

Director, National Institute on Aging

Harvard Medical School

As a member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School, and as a consultant to the National Institute on Aging, I am very concerned about accidental hypothermia among the elderly and feel that indeed it is a health problem of national significance. I fully support your efforts to develop a national education campaign on hypothermia, and feel that this action is essential to the safety and welfare of our elderly population.

Richard W. Besdine, M.D.

Division on Aging, Harvard Medical School

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

Your work in this field is to be commended.

James M. Sullivan

Special Assistant for Member Services

Southern California Gas Company

This is one of the most innovative public / private partnerships ever undertaken by our company. It has not only helped protect the health of the company's senior customers, but forged new coalitions between business and public interest organizations that will endure for a long time to come.

Michael F. Neiggemann

Vice President

Consumer Services

bottom of page