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ICYMI: children at risk as the world heats, a First Nations First strategy, COVID persistence, plus upcoming opportunities

As climate health risks escalate, we report this week on a new policy statement on climate change and children, while Dr George Crisp delivers a sobering message for parents from heat-stricken Western Australia.

Read on for updates on First Nations health and research, public health, global health, mental health, and the latest from #AusPol.

Don’t miss the upcoming events and other opportunities.

The quotable?

Climate change solutions are child health and equity solutions.”


Climate concerns heating up

With large swathes of Australia currently experiencing heat and fire warnings, the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) is calling for urgent funding of the National Health and Climate Strategy in the 2024/25 Commonwealth Budget.

“Right now people all over Australia are experiencing the health impacts of climate change,” CAHA CEO Philip Cornish said in a statement today.

“The 2023/24 summer has been one of the angriest yet. Western Australia has copped seemingly endless extreme heat, Australia’s deadliest weather type. We’ve seen cyclones in Queensland, a deadly storm in Gippsland and bushfires in several states.”

He said CAHA was calling for funding of the National Health and Climate Strategy to be prioritised in this year’s budget, stating that “the health of current and future generations depends on it”.

Meanwhile, Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA) CEO Jeff Smith and Sweltering Cities Executive Director Emma Bacon have written to Federal NDIS Minister Bill Shorten urging the Government to take strong action to prevent “hundreds of people with disability dying in each city every year” as heatwaves become hotter and longer.

“Heatwaves are the deadliest environmental disaster in Australia and kill more people than all other environmental disasters combined,” they said. “Studies have shown that 89 percent of heatwave deaths in Australia are people with disability.”

Smith and Bacon have called on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to incorporate the impacts of extreme heat into its planning and funding decisions, government funding for people with disability to more effectively heatproof their homes, overhauling disability service provider procedures to include protocols for heatwave events, and for Minister Shorten to urgently convene a roundtable of extreme heat experts and service providers to discuss the impact of extreme heat and climate change on people

Prioritise children’s health

Meanwhile, the American College of Pediatrics issued a policy statement this week on climate change and children’s health, making recommendations to paediatricians, the health sector and government.

“The warming of our planet matters to the health, well-being, and future of every child,” the authors reported this week in the journal, Pediatrics.

“Having been trained to understand child health through the lens of a stable climate, paediatricians must now learn to recognise, predict, and prevent child health risks that result from climate change.

“Climate change solutions are child health and equity solutions. Policies that promote cleaner air, facilitate walking and bicycling, encourage more sustainable diets, increase access to nature, and develop more connected communities can lead to enormous gains in child health and equity. Climate actions matter most to disadvantaged children such as those with chronic medical conditions, those living in low-wealth households, or children experiencing discrimination.”

The statement recommends that paediatricians assess climate risks and recommend climate solutions when screening for and addressing social determinants of health such as energy, food, and housing security.

It also recommends that paediatricians “serve as a role model in your personal and professional community for practices that promote sustainability. For example, embrace active transportation, reduce home energy use, transition to clean electricity sources, reduce air travel, and adopt a more plant-based diet.”

The policy statement also encourages paediatricians to engage with the community by speaking at public hearings, providing expert testimony, and writing letters to the editor, as well as developing local, regional, and national preparedness measures that protect the best interests of children from current and future harm.

They should prioritise engagement with members of communities at highest risk as a result of historical under-investment and racist policies.

While the policy statement is directed at paediatricians, its recommendations clearly are relevant for many other parts of the health and social workforces, and more broadly too.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is speaking today health at a public hearing for Independent ACT Senator David Pocock’s duty of care bill, which would require the Federal Government to protect young people from climate change harms.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the wildfire season has begun in winter. Read about climate change’s threat to renters and homeowners in the US.


COVID updates

COVID safety resources for schools

Read the Nature paper, Prevalence of persistent SARS-CoV-2 in a large community surveillance study

The authors state: “Individuals with persistent infection had more than 50 percent higher odds of self-reporting long COVID than individuals with non-persistent infection. We estimate that 0.1–0.5 percent of infections may become persistent with typically rebounding high viral loads and last for at least 60 days.”


First Nations peoples’ health and research

Read the scoping review: “This will be the first scoping review globally to identify practices used to commission Indigenous health and wellbeing program evaluations. Results will be utilised to strengthen the commissioning practices of Indigenous health and wellbeing programs in Australia and overseas.”HealthQ32: A vision for Queensland’s health system, includes this statement:

“Queensland Health offers genuine commitment to eliminate racism within the health system and to provide First Nations peoples with access to culturally safe and coordinated healthcare services. In making this commitment, we acknowledge our partners, local a