Australia’s health leaders tackle climate change at Parliament

Representatives from Australia’s leading health and medical groups met in Canberra on Monday to call on politicians to take immediate steps to protect the health of Australians from the impacts of climate change.

A nation-wide consultation has revealed deep concern within the health sector that there is currently no national health plan to deal with the impacts of climate change.

These include:
 injuries and illnesses associated with extreme weather events, such as bushfires, extreme storms, flooding, and heatwaves, the mental health impacts of disasters and their aftermath, increased spread of infectious diseases, and worsening air quality.

Around 40 CEOs, Presidents, and policy directors from Australia’s leading health and medical groups met with Assistant Minister for Health Ken Wyatt, Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King and Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale to pass on their concerns.

Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore says it’s an urgent issue.

“Public health professionals are anxious to see action on climate change to limit its negative impacts, and we are keen to work with parliamentarians to develop an effective response.”

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association CEO Alison Verhoeven said: “The health sector can play a major role in climate action; both in terms of reducing the carbon footprint of the sector and as a leader and influencer of opinion at the community level.”

Australian College of Nursing CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN, says nurses are driving the push for change.

“Nurses constitute the largest of all healthcare professions and are well positioned to communicate the risk to people’s health associated with climate change. We want to see more support for health professionals to inform communities about this issue, and for a stronger focus on climate change in the education of health professionals across the board.”

Fiona Armstrong, executive director of the Climate and Health Alliance says national political leadership in this critical area is missing.

“We know climate change will produce enormous challenges for the physical and mental health of our community in the immediate future.

“Doctors, GPs, nurses, public health professionals, psychologists and others are working together to help develop policy solutions, and want members of Parliament to work with us. The health issues are urgent and the time has come for action.”

The health groups used the meeting to agree the key elements of a policy framework to tackle the issue which will be developed further and offered to the federal government and parliamentarians in 2017.

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