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Arizona names new chief heat officer

The Arizona Department of Health Services on Wednesday announced Dr. Eugene Livar will serve as the state's first chief heat officer. The new role was created as part of the state’s first-ever Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan,  released last week

Livar has worked for the Department of Health Services for more than a decade, most recently serving as assistant director for public health preparedness.

He will continue to work within the health department, but said his main responsibility in his new role as Arizona’s chief heat officer will be to coordinate responses to dangerous temperatures across several state agencies.

"It was important for the state to create this role because of the need for cross-collaboration and coordination in the state," Livar told KJZZ News. “We're really focusing in on safe affordable housing needs and concerns, adapting and updating emergency response recommendations so we can be better prepared and respond appropriately to heat seasons that we know are going to happen, looking at cooling center network improvements." 

The health department has also hired a coordinator specifically to organize cooling centers across the state.

The new positions were created in response to soaring heat-related deaths and illnesses in Arizona in recent years. Deaths during last summer’s prolonged heat wave  shattered previous records.

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.