In a post for Croakey earlier this year, GP Dr Tim Senior noted,
“…like many doctors, I am already seeing the effects of climate change in my patients, not experienced as an increased average global temperature, but as more sickness, as more time off work, as more caring for ill relatives.”
With this observation reflecting the experience of health care workers around the world, it is not surprising that health professionals have found themselves at the forefront of advocating for policy responses from their governments.
At a recent meeting in Canberra, reported here at Croakey, representatives from health professional bodies met with politicians, and with each other, to plan a way forward. One phase of a multi-pronged campaign was training of health professionals in climate change responses, lobbying and advocacy.
The post below from public health nutritionist Dr Sinead Boylan highlights why training health professionals is vital, and also introduces a new international, multi-disciplinary research collaboration between academic institutions and practitioners across the world, launched overnight by the Lancet.
The Lancet Countdown –Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change will track the health effects of climate change, responses, and the benefits of responses, drawing out examples of best practice around the world.
The authors of the Lancet Countdown have proposed a number of potential indicators to be monitored, that are open for consultation over the coming months.
Sinead Boylan writes
The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change concluded that “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.
Today, The Lancet has launched a formal consultation process, The Lancet Countdown –Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, led by an independent research collaboration to track responses to climate change to protect and promote public health. The initial consultation will be undertaken from November 2016 to January 2017, alongside a number of global events which will invite experts to join the initiative, provide their academic expertise, and refine the indicators to track progress on health and climate change over the next 15 years.
The Lancet Countdown will generate new evidence on the threats and opportunities, and communicate these to the public and health policymakers. We know that Australians are not free from the detrimental impact of climate change on health and wellbeing, and it is our health professionals who sit at the frontline, defending us from the climate’s effects.
Many of these professionals are unarmed, under-resourced and unaware of the nature and scale of the risks posed to individual and population health and social cohesion from the impacts of climate change. Yes, they need to know their enemy, however they will also require back up support skills of leadership and organisation in order to successfully win this war.
The Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) is a coalition of health care stakeholders who work together to see the threat of human health from climate change and ecological degradation addressed through prompt policy action.
Next year, CAHA in partnership with other stakeholders will provide an educational program to a multidisciplinary cohort of health professionals to build their skills and knowledge in relation to climate change. This program will enable them to better respond as citizens and health professionals to the risks faced by the communities they serve, and enhance their capacity to act as thought leaders and influencers to communicate climate-health solutions to their peers and the wider community.
Participants from a wide range of organisations and geographies will be encouraged to participate in the program. The training provided will contribute to the ability of participants to reduce their own environmental footprint, advocate for change, and take appropriate action to reduce threats to vulnerable communities and to the health sector.
With strategic investment to build capacity, health professionals can use their networks to influence community attitudes, public opinion, health sector preparedness, and public policy decisions in favour of effective climate action. Supported by mentors, these climate and health champions will work within their own constituencies to raise awareness of climate-health issues and contribute to resilience and responsiveness within the health sector to climate impacts.
For information about the program please contact Fiona Armstrong, CAHA Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Sinead Boylan is a Nutritional Epidemiologist/Public Health Nutritionist at the School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School.
For a short video summary of the goals of the Lancet Countdown, click here.