New public health strategies needed to respond to climate change

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Immediate and longer-term impacts of climate change have the potential to seriously affect Australian health and social environments. The threat posed to Australian health by climate change is at the heart of a new issues brief, published by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, and presented at the Greening the Health Sector Think Tank in Brisbane on October 14.

According to lead author Tony Walter, new public health strategies are required, including assessing regional health risks to identify vulnerable populations, collecting enhanced surveillance data and developing monitoring indicators.

“Politicians, health bureaucrats and other interested parties must formulate comprehensive, coherent policies to address the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on public health, including allocation of appropriate financial resources as part of a National Plan for Health in Responding to Climate Change,” says Mr Walter.

An ongoing relationship needs to be implemented between research organisations and health institutions to develop long-term studies on the impact of climate change on health.

In addition, advocacy bodies must develop long-term proposals that demonstrate to Government cost-effective methods to combat the impact of climate on health.

“The health sector must communicate climate change as a human health issue rather than just an environmental problem. The focus should be on effective, realistic and sustainable solutions rather than problems characterised as bleak and unresolvable,” says Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.