Introduction by Croakey: This week a Health Minister described how climate action brings many co-benefits for health. Health services told how they are promoting electric vehicle use, and general practitioners acknowledged their important role as advocates for climate action. There is also a push on for “eco-friendly pharma”.
Below, you can find more tweet-reports from the 2021 Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health Aotearoa Conference that wrapped up today at the University of Otago, Wellington. It was convened by the University of Otago, OraTaiao, Sustainable Health Sector National Network, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Pacific Region (coordinated by Climate and Health Alliance).
Our warm thanks to Remy Shergill from the Alliance, who was live-tweeting the conference via @WePublicHealth. This is the first in a series of reports based on her tweets. Stay tuned!
Tweets by Remy Shergill:
New Zealand Health Minister Andrew Little opened the conference.
Minister Little shared a good example of sustainable healthcare at Northland District Health Board, where they have just upgraded their fleet to 150 EVs, made possible thanks to $4.3mil from ECCA NZ.
He said climate change is “the biggest health challenge of this generation … and an opportunity to improve the health of Aotearoa.”
A conference participant commented about the number of weather events happening in NZ and the costs involved, and asked whether we doing enough to mitigate rather than adapt and respond?
The Minister replied: We are acutely aware of the honest, brave conversations we need for the adaptation response. We will need to move towns around, fix infrastructure to be more resilient to these weather events. This is massive investment, central governmentt must help local government with this.
Asked about how we deal with the growing mental health crisis from climate change, he replied: We have work to do. The long term aim is to prevent people accessing help at the acute end … helping people to access help in the mild to moderate stage.
India Logan-Riley, a co-founder of Te Ara Whatu, spoke on climate justice
India Logan-Riley was raised in Te Matau a Māui, is currently based in Tāmaki Makaurau where they are studying archaeology. India’s pathway into the climate justice movement was through the taonga Māori and heritage space and lived experience of climate injustice.
@TeAraWhatu is an Indigenous youth climate change organisation, bringing expertise from six years of attending UN climate negotiations as well as working at the grass roots level, supporting rangatahi in their aspirations for climate justice.
Even if we fix climate change, if we don’t treat the cause of this crisis, we’re going to end up in another crisis in 100 years.
Indigenous peoples make up five percent of the population, 20 percent of the landscapes are ours, and those lands have 80 percent of the biodiversity. We know what we’re doing. When you take our land, you disrupt the balance and it results in things like climate change.
Professor David Pencheon from the University of Exeter spoke on duty of care.
He said that framing climate change as a health issue gave health professionals “more licence to act”. He said, “We should be first rate health professionals, not second rate climate scientists.”
This slide below from Pencheon was widely shared on Twitter.
Asked about his experience with the Sustainable Development Unit in the UK, Pencheon’s advice to other countries wanting to establish such unit is that it does not need to be big. It coordinates and aligns the work that’s being done. Having a unit gives confidence to people who are behaving sustainably, normalising their practices..
Dr David Galler, a recently retired ICU specialist spoke on “The journey from sustainability to regeneration – a revelatory experience”.
He is a co-founder of the Environmental Sustainability Group at Counties Manukau which has achieved remarkable success over the past eight years, seeing a 27 percent reduction in their footprint. He describes this work as the most optimistic and rewarding of all his endeavours.
David Galler on integrating regenerative principles into healthcare.
Graham Bidois-Cameron, from the Bay of Plenty District Health Board
Dr Dermot Coffey, Royal New Zealand College of GPs, a Christchurch GP, and @OraTaiao co-convenor
Coffey noted that Minister Little he didn’t mention primary care. “Primary care accounts for four percent of healthcare’s CO2 footprint, but everything else stems from primary care. If we don’t embed sustainability into primary care now, it will be harder to do later.”
He noted there are many opportunities for advocacy and leadership for GPs as the first point of contact in the health system for most patients.
Q: How do you maintain optimism when you’re not in a position in power?
David Galler replied: I don’t believe we’re without power. Surround yourself with those who fill your cup, rather than empty it. Remember though progress is slow, it gives you energy to push to make the changes needed. You must have energy over a long period of time, so take care of yourself. There are others who feel the same way as you – find them.
Q: Should embedded emissions be part of the decision-making matrix in pharmaceuticals?
Dermot Coffey: Yes, we should push, we have pushed and we should continue to push. UK plans to bring in a traffic light system to help patients choose eco-friendly pharma.
Q: How do we promote the health co-benefits of climate action?
David Galler: That’s our big opportunity. We have lots of evidence. We haven’t strategically represented this as the opportunity it is. It’s perceived a compliance thing, but we need to change the narrative.
Audience member: Most rural doctors and nurses are so busy, they’re struggling. They’re on the frontlines. We’re not providing them with the tools and resilience they need, including in our medical schools and colleges.
Applause from the audience.
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