AMA Submission to the Department of Health and Aged Care – National Health and Climate Strategy

The AMA supports the development of a National Health and Climate Strategy. This is something we have advocated for but overall, the AMA is concerned that the strategy as proposed does not sufficiently address the health impacts of climate change, and rather focuses on environmental sustainability of the health care system.

Climate change is a health emergency. Our current systems are too siloed to achieve the collaboration and action needed to prevent and adapt to the health impacts of climate change. While ensuring the health care system is sustainable is an important component, the strategy needs to reflect that climate change is a health crisis, and preventing health impacts requires a whole-of-government approach.

The strategy should be structured to prioritise a health in all policies approach, with a clear vision on what the strategy should achieve. The strategy needs to clearly outline how it will reduce health impact risks. Strategy objectives and actions should not be limited to the scope set for the Department of Health and Aged Care as they are crossportfolio.

Australia is far behind other countries in acknowledging and acting on the health impacts of climate change. Funding health and climate action should be seen as an investment, not a cost. The strategy must recognise that while the medical workforce is increasingly passionate about making change in this space, most currently do not have the capacity or capability to do so. The strategy must ensure it includes a plan to increase the capacity and capability of the health system to make meaningful progress. Implementing the strategy will require significant initial funding but will result in substantial savings over time.

The AMA supports using the Greener NHS program as a basis for developing healthcare sustainability strategies, noting that the program will need to be adapted to incorporate Australia’s jurisdictional, public and private health areas. The AMA would welcome further opportunity to contribute to the development of the strategy. A draft strategy should be available for consultation before it is finalised. The consultation paper provided does not include adequate detail to determine how the strategy will achieve its objectives.

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