This post provides links to recent news on climate and health, and also includes our second wrap from the 2021 Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health Aotearoa Conference, held recently at the University of Otago, Wellington.
It comes as killer heatwaves in North America, India, Iraq and other places, and unprecedented temperatures in the Arctic underscore concerns about the health impacts of the climate emergency, with even CNN reporting, ‘Climate change is frying the Northern Hemisphere’.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership
The Lowitja Institute is seeking expressions of interest for the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led Climate and Health Discussion Paper outlining the issues of climate change in Australia and how it is impacting on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
The discussion paper will inform an upcoming Climate and Health Roundtable. EOIs are due by Friday, 9 July.
Safety and quality matters
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care is developing a Climate Risk Module to support health services to know their climate risks and develop mitigation and adaptation strategies, and build resilience.
According to the Commission, the module aims to:
- Include within the role of a health service organisation’s governing body, the responsibility for setting priorities for the organisation’s climate risk plan
- Incorporate climate risk monitoring into the organisation’s regular monitoring and performance reporting structure
- Incorporate climate risk into routine clinical practices focusing on mitigation, resilience and adaption
- Build the health workforce’s carbon literacy to enable clinical decision making which is sensitive to climate risk.
The Commission has established a Sustainable Environment Advisory Group to provide expert technical advice and guidance on the development of a Climate Risk Module. This group includes multidisciplinary health professionals and consumers with industry experience and expertise in climate risk, resilience and adaptation and health care.
The module will be voluntary for health service organisations. It is expected to include actions that can be implemented in any health service organisation and will be assessed as part of organisations’ routine accreditation, should the organisation choose. Implementation will rely on the organisation’s existing governance structure.
The Commission’s website says that addressing climate risk is a global responsibility and an important national priority, noting that “health services use immense amounts of resources and generate vast amounts of waste in delivering care to their patients”.
“Improving the environmental sustainability of health services is an opportunity to improve the safety and quality of care, improve the health of the community, reduce low value care and unwarranted variation and reduce waste,” it says.
“Globally, health services organisations are recognising the importance of knowing and understanding the impact of health care on the environment and public health. Recognising this, more health services are developing climate risk plans; monitoring their progress towards environmental sustainability targets; considering climate risk in the organisation’s models of care, clinical practices and decision making processes; and designing or upgrading facilities with climate risks and resilience in mind.”
Read more here, and sign up to receive updates about the module.
Older people at risk
Ageism contributes to older people’s vulnerability to climate change, according to presentations at a recent panel discussion hosted by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
By the year 2050, it is estimated there will be 1.5 billion people aged 65 and above, according to Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. And by 2050, if greenhouse gas emissions had not been reduced to net zero, global warming would exceed 1.5° Celsius.
Bachelet said the COVID-19 crisis had shown how age-related discrimination created and exacerbated the poverty and marginalisation of older people, amplifying human rights risks. The existing international human rights framework provided fragmented and inconsistent coverage of the human rights of older persons, in law and practice.
Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said it was incumbent on governments, local governments, and national disaster management agencies to ensure national strategies for disaster risk reduction included older persons. Apart from ensuring their protection and safety, there was also a need to recognise the role they could play in building a community’s resilience to disasters.
Katharina Rall, Senior Environment Researcher, Human Rights Watch, said government responses to heatwaves did not always account for the needs of older people.
And while robust data was collected on the number of older people dying from heatwaves, the health impacts of heat on older people were much less documented or monitored. This gap was especially concerning for older people with disabilities, she said.
Taking action for health
Our warm thanks to Remy Shergill from the Climate and Health Alliance, whose recent tweets for @WePublicHealth feature in the summary below, reporting from the 2021 Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health Aotearoa Conference. (See her first report here).
Debbie Wilson, NZ Ministry of Health, presented on: Greening healthcare infrastructure.
Dr Rhys Jones, a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer in Māori Health at the University of Auckland and co-director of the Climate Health Aotearoa research network, presented on: Tackling the real problem: from decarbonisation to decolonisation.
Dr Renae McBrien presented on sustainability interventions by Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service.
Dr Rea Daellenbach, Ara Institute of Canterbury, presented on: Education for sustainable health practice at Ara.
Dr Anna Stevenson, Canterbury District Health Board, spoke on: Climate change mitigation and adaptation in Aotearoa’s Health care sector – Where are we going and how could we get there?
Dr Luke Harrington, Victoria University of Wellington, spoke on: The (known) unknown health impacts of changing extreme weather in Aotearoa
Matthew Latta, University of Otago, spoke on: The carbon footprint of cataract surgery in Wellington
Michael Brenndorfer, Te Puna Manawa HealthWEST spoke on: Health co-benefits of youth climate activism
Josh Karliner, International Director of Program and Strategy, Healthcare Without Harm, presented on: Global climate change: the need for mitigation and adaptation
Summer Wright, a dietitian and an executive member of OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council, presented on: Our future
Links to poster presentations
Biophilic design in healthcare and rehabilitation (link not working on conference website)
More than 200 Twitter accounts participated in the #SHCH2021 discussions, sending 1,267 tweets and creating more than 10 million Twitter impressions, according to Symplur analytics for the period 18 June to 4 July – see here.
The Twitter transcript is here.
Follow this Twitter list of climate and health leaders.
See our previous coverage of climate and health.
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