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ICYMI: moral failure in Aotearoa/New Zealand, climate insecurity, the joy of swimming – and healthcare during disasters

Ahead of this Saturday’s Dunkley by-election, the column this week highlights many ways that the political determinants of health play out, whether considering attacks on public health in Aotearoa/New Zealand, or the inadequacy of climate action, and the role of the media in undermining healthy policy.

A new report makes recommendations for democratic control of artificial intelligence, the World Health Organization stresses the importance of healthcare for non-communicable diseases during times of disaster, and there’s also an ode to the benefits of swimming.

The quotable?

…as climate change escalates, we must expect the unexpected. In a fire-prone continent such as Australia, we can never relax in a warming world. We must be in a constant, heightened state of preparedness.”


Moral failure

Legislation to scrap the Te Aka Whai Ora or Māori Health Authority has been passed in Aotearoa/New Zealand amid “tears and bitter protest”; the Government says it will be shut down by the end of June with its functions to be absorbed by the national health system.

Rahui Papa, the co-chair of the Iwi Charis Forum’s Pou Tangata, has said that the coalition government’s move is “dishonorable and a contemporary breach of Te Tiriti of Waitangi” or Treaty of Waitangi, according to news reports.

Meanwhile, the repeal of Aotearoa’s world-leading smokefree legislation means thousands of New Zealanders will continue to die needlessly from smoking-related diseases, say researchers at the University of Otago.

They said the planned repeal of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act (SERPA) – globally hailed when it was passed in December 2022, for its creation of a smokefree generation – was “shameful”.

“Repealing the legislation flies in the face of robust research evidence; it ignores measures strongly supported by Māori leaders and it will preserve health inequities,” said Centre Co-Director Professor Janet Hoek.

In a Tobacco Control editorial, Dr Marita Hefler said the Act had been driven by Māori leadership and decision-making, and included health promotion, community engagement and smoking cessation services to support Māori smoking prevalence to reduce more steeply than, and thereby reach parity with, other New Zealanders.

“By placing the people most affected by the tobacco industry’s activities at the centre of decision-making, and providing resourcing for community-driven engagement, it promised to invert the dynamic of increasing commercial sector wealth and power at the expense of costs externalised to increasingly impoverished and disempowered individuals, governments and civil society organisations.”

Hefler, Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, said the repeal of the legislation, together with the with the roll back of other Māori health governance structures and initiatives, “is a slap in the face to Māori sovereignty, and a reminder to the global tobacco control community that our field does not exist in isolation from other public health and social policies”.

She said the legislation had set an example to the world and, while the change of government had set the timeline back, “the foresight that informed the plan has moved global tobacco control forward and redefined what is considered possible”.

“SERPA may be on ice for as long as the current New Zealand government lasts, but its influence and legacy will be far-reaching.”


Climate, war and heat

As communities from Victoria to Texas in the United States battle devastating bushfires, and heat warnings become part of the everyday for many people around the world, the World Meteorological Association has outlined five ways the climate crisis is undermining peace and security.

It is increasing competition over land and water, affecting food production and driving hunger, and displacing people with more than 20 million people annually being forced to leave their homes and move to other areas in their countries due to hazards resulting from extreme weather events. It is also increasing poverty and inequalities, as well as security risks for women and girls.

Meanwhile, a new report by Deloitte Access Economics for UNICEF Australia looked at how climate disasters are affecting children and young people in Australia.

It found more than 1.4 million children and young people experience a climate disaster or extreme weather event in an average year, with those in remote areas, from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and Indigenous children more likely to be impacted. “That is equivalent to one in six children, and sadly, that number is on the rise.”

The analysis estimates that young people who experience a disaster in Australia are 4.2 percent less likely to complete high school than those who do not. In an average year, that’s equivalent to roughly 28,200 fewer children not completing school due to their exposure to disasters.

The report also highlighted the impact of climate disasters on children’s mental health and wellbeing, and housing security.

 

The Climate Council’s Heat Map of Australia is an interactive tool that shows how cutting climate pollution will limit extreme heat in our neighbourhoods.

It projects the average number of hot and very hot days, as well as very hot nights, for each suburb by 2050 and 2090, and across three scenarios: no action, continuing with existing action, and taking necessary action in line with Climate Council’s recommendations.

Further reading, via The Conversation

Victoria’s fire alert has knocked Australians out of complacency. Under climate change, catastrophic bushfires can strike any time
Professor David Bowman: “…as climate change escalates, we must expect the unexpected. In a fire-prone continent such as Australia, we can never relax in a warming world. We must be in a constant, heightened state of preparedness.

What we know about last year’s top 10 wild Australian climatic events – from fire and flood combos to cyclone-driven extreme rain

“Australia’s intense weather events during 2023 are broadly what we can expect to see as the world keeps getting hotter and hotter due to the heat-trapping greenhouse gases humanity continues to emit”


Global health

https://twitter.com/UN_News_Centre/status/1762946862141599773