AMA welcomes new report on Climate Change and Health

14 Aug 2012

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the report, Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate, is a welcome addition to the evidence base as governments are urged to make plans to address the health impacts of climate change.

The report, prepared by the Climate and Health Alliance and The Climate Institute, was released in Canberra today.

Dr Hambleton said that the AMA has had a comprehensive Position Statement on Climate Change and Health since 2004 (updated in 2008), and has been active in urging the Australian Government to adopt a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change.

“The AMA believes that climate change is a significant worldwide threat to human health that requires immediate action, and we recognise that human activity has contributed to climate change,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate report has collated much of the available contemporary thinking and evidence around the effects of climate change and human health, and explains the health benefits that can achieved through addressing climate change and its causes.

“The report will stimulate debate and will hopefully be a further catalyst for government and community action on climate change.

“The report complements the recommendations of the AMA Position Statement.

“The AMA wants to see a national strategic approach to climate change and health, and we want health professionals to play an active and leading role in educating the public about the impacts and health issues associated with climate change.”

The AMA believes that a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change should be developed and implemented to ensure that Australia can respond effectively to the health impacts of gradual climate change, extreme events, and to people’s medium-term and long-term recovery needs. That strategy should incorporate:

· localised disaster management plans for specific geographical regions that model potential adverse health outcomes in those areas and incorporate appropriate localised health and medical response measures, including for people who have been evacuated or relocated, temporarily or permanently;

· strong and active communication linkages between hospitals, major medical centres and local weather forecasters and emergency response agencies (in at-risk locations) to maximise timely responses and efficient use of health resources in extreme weather events;

· measures targeted to the needs of certain vulnerable population groups (older Australians, children, Indigenous communities, members of remote communities);

· measures to address health and medical workforce needs in rural and remote communities, particularly in mental health services;

· enhanced awareness among doctors and health professionals of the potential consequences on mental health of extreme weather events and disasters;

· development of effective interventions to address mental health issues arising from extreme events, including those involving mass casualties and from longer-term changes, including drought;

· programs to improve the education and awareness of health professionals about the links between health and climate change, and their understanding of the risks of new vector-borne diseases and their health impacts;

· measures to prevent exotic disease vectors from becoming established in Australia and nationally coordinated surveillance for dangerous arboviruses, with public education programs promoting mosquito avoidance and measures to prevent mosquito/arthropod breeding; and

· preparedness to deal with the temporary and permanent dislocation of people due to climate-related physical events and economic conditions.

The AMA believes that doctors and other health professionals should:

· support policies and practices compatible with a healthy and sustainable future;

· promote the community’s awareness of the impacts of climate change on health;

· encourage the sustainable reduction of carbon emissions from health care facilities and organisations, and act as role models for others in reducing emissions in their own practices;

· draw attention to health issues associated with climate change in their roles as educators in health and medical faculties, residency programs and continuing education programs; and

· undertake and participate in research to ascertain the effects on physical and mental health of both extreme and gradual climate change, and to quantify more rigorously the potential health effects that can be achieved by appropriate policies and practices.

The health effects of climate change include increased heat related illness and deaths, increased food- and water-borne diseases, and changing patterns of diseases. In addition to their impact on health infrastructure and services, extreme events such as droughts, flooding and storms could be responsible for death and disease.

Climate change will dramatically alter the patterns and rate of spread of diseases.

The Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate report is at

The AMA Position Statement on Climate Change and Health is at

The World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Delhi on Health and Climate Change is at

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