A National Preventive Health Strategy that does not address the health impacts of climate change is certain to fail in its objectives, according to a joint statement released today by 32 key Australian health organisations.
The statement follows Croakey’s call on its readers to engage with the consultation process on the Strategy. Croakey noted that health advocates and groups had welcomed aspects of the consultation paper, such as its focus on health inequalities, but were concerned that critically important issues, such as climate change, had been overlooked.
Submissions on the National Preventive Health Strategy consultation paper can be made until 28 September 2020.
Nicole MacKee writes:
Leading health groups are calling on the Federal Government to address the health impacts of climate change in its National Preventive Health Strategy, which is currently open for consultation.
A joint statement issued today stated that the Strategy’s Consultation Paper did not include climate change in its six focus areas, nor mention “climate change”.
The statement is signed by 32 key health bodies in Australia, including: Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA), Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). A full list of signatories is listed at the end of the statement.
According to the statement, a National Preventive Health Strategy that was fit for purpose in the 21st century must address climate change, or it would “fail in its objectives”.
“The goal of the National Preventive Health Strategy should be to tackle the systems that undermine positive health and wellbeing. These include social, environmental, commercial and political determinants of health,” the statement said. “As with unhealthy food, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and alcohol, it is critical that the role of vested interests in relation to climate change is identified as undermining efforts to prevent illness and promote health and wellbeing.”
Disease burden risks
Commenting on the statement, Fiona Armstrong, CAHA executive director, said climate change posed the greatest threat to health this century.
The National Preventive Health Strategy must tackle climate change to protect and promote health. If we don’t, everything else risks being done for nought.”
She said if the government ignored the health impacts of climate change, thousands more Australians would suffer from “infectious disease, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, heat stress, mental illness, violence, food insecurity, poor water quality and poorer nutrition”.
Leanne Wells, CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, said Australia’s political leadership needed to ensure that the health and interests of consumers and the community prevailed.
“Policy on climate and health should be guided by science first and foremost as we have largely seen happen with the [COVID-19] pandemic. Why should our response to climate change be any different?”
Australian Health Promotion Association President Dr Gemma Crawford welcomed a national blueprint for prevention, but said:
…our collective efforts will be undermined if we fail to recognise the impacts of climate change – the biggest threat to the health of our families, communities and planet.
Building capacity to implement measures to reduce health vulnerability to climate change is critical.”
The statement noted that climate change was increasing the global burden of disease.
“If no action is taken, [climate change] is predicted to lead to 85 deaths per 100,000 people globally per year by the end of the century – more than are currently killed by all infectious diseases across the globe.”