In feedback to the ‘National Health and Climate Strategy - Consultation Paper’ submitted on behalf of AMA(SA) Council, President Dr John Williams commended the Australian Government for an approach that outlines initiatives that may be necessary ‘on a prudent and precautionary basis’ before irrefutable evidence is available.
‘The AMA at federal and state levels has over recent years repeatedly outlined its concerns about how climate change is affecting health, and how the health system is contributing to climate change,’ Dr Williams wrote. ‘As recent natural disasters in this country and elsewhere have demonstrated, the changes to the climate of this planet are having enormous impacts on individuals and communities, including to their health in the short and longer term.’
However, he said, the paper does not propose ‘much-needed actions and policies needed to reduce the impacts of climate change on the health of individuals and communities’.
‘Recent floods and bushfires, including in South Australia, have shown that climate-related events have significant effects on the capacities of people and communities to be healthy and to maintain their efforts to reach health goals and objectives,’ he wrote. ‘Members of vulnerable groups, including First Nations peoples, are among those more likely to have their health and well-being affected by such events. Despite these impacts, the Consultation Paper does not establish policies and actions to prevent these outcomes.
He said the impacts on physical health, mental health, and the ability to access services during emergencies such as the Riverland floods of late 2022 to early 2023, should form a major section of the strategy.
Health sector as role model
Dr Williams said the health sector also has a role to play in modelling behaviour for other sectors to follow.
‘The system and its workforce can inspire and drive change across other industries,’ he wrote. ‘By demonstrating a commitment to reducing climate emissions in healthcare facilities, hospitals, and other health-related institutions, the Australian Government can support the health system in setting an example for other sectors to follow.
‘This can encourage a broader transition towards sustainability and drive national emission reduction.’
The AMA(SA) submission is available below.