MJA-Lancet report finds heightened climate health threat

Australian Medical Association

A report from the MJA and the Lancet has found increasing climate-related health threats for Australians coinciding with a decline in the capacity of our health system to cope with climate health emergencies.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson joined author, scientist and environmentalist, Tim Flannery, climate experts, and the report’s authors at an event at the National Arboretum to launch the report this week.

He urged policy makers to read the report and urgently act on its recommendations.

“We are experiencing poorer health outcomes from increasing climate disasters, however, there is still time to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change for the next generation.

“We congratulate the federal government on its initiative to establish a National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit and a National Health and Climate Strategy announced in last week’s budget,” Professor Robson said.

The report’s key findings warn:

  • The health of Australians is being jeopardised by increasing exposure to extreme fire danger, life-threatening heat, and severe drought and more people are being affected and internally displaced by weather-related disasters.
  • Australia’s healthcare systems are largely underprepared for the impacts of climate change and are showing signs of strain from increases in climate change-related healthcare demand adding to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia’s health emergency management capacity deteriorated in 2021.
  • Australia’s energy, transport, food, and healthcare systems remain carbon-intensive and polluting, threatening the health and wellbeing of present and future generations.

A coalition of health peak bodies came together to amplify the warnings with the AMA, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian College of Nursing, and the Australian Medical Students’ Association all calling for policy measures to help safeguard Australians’ health from climate impacts.

Key policy recommendations from the coalition include developing health and climate change plans at all levels of government; more consistently aligning government energy policies with the goals of the Paris Agreement; and incorporating environmental sustainability principles in an upcoming update of the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

The MJA-Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is a multi-disciplinary research collaboration that provides annual updates on Australia’s progress in tackling climate change and its health impacts. It was established in 2017.

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