A global network of health organisations working across 11 countries and spanning five continents has today issued a powerful statement calling for a “health in all policies” and “systems change” approach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Beyond COVID-19: Toward healthy people, a healthy planet, justice, and equity statement produced by international NGO Health Care Without Harm highlights the essential role of health sector leadership across society. It also declares support for the World Health Organization’s Manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19.“Our national network of 45 organisations stands behind its sentiments and calls for action.
Fiona Armstrong is the Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance, the Australian signatory to the statement.
“The Climate and Health Alliance is proud to release this statement, developed in collaboration with our partners in the Health Care Without Harm global network,” Ms Armstrong said.
“Governments in Australia need to heed the advice of the health community on climate change, just as they have responded to health advice on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic is a public health crisis of our own making. So too is the connected crisis of global warming and climate change.
“Our destruction of the natural world, and disregard for the consequences of undermining the foundation for human health and well-being have led to a rise in new and novel diseases, like coronaviruses.
“We will see more and more of these unless we change our behaviour and begin to support nature, so the natural world can play its role in mediating disease, and protecting our health, not harming it.
“Our behaviour in burning fossil fuels and ignoring the consequences of a warming planet for many decades has put us in a perilous position, with climate change posing increasingly severe and unpredictable risks that are causing unprecedented loss of life and livelihoods globally.
The global statement calls for investment in renewable energy and sustainable transport as key strategies to boost economies, reduce emissions, and improve health and wellbeing.
Regenerative agriculture, forest and ecosystem conservation are also critical to create healthy, sustainable jobs and lead to a cleaner, healthier, safer, more just world, the statement says.
“We have the opportunity right now, perhaps the only opportunity we will get this century, to respond to these crises with integrated strategies that tackle these twin crises simultaneously,” Ms Armstrong said.
“The world has listened to the health community in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also ask that you listen to us now on climate change.
“The health and medical community work in the public interest. They are guided by scientific evidence and possess the skills and knowledge to lead us towards a healthier, more sustainable and just world.
“Their advice to apply a health lens to all policies must be adopted if we are to avoid the harmful health consequences that arise from siloed approaches to policymaking.
“The health care sector is already leading by example, and working to decarbonise through the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network.
“We cannot rely on these voluntary efforts to ensure our healthcare systems are prepared for the challenges of a warming world however. Governments must invest to ensure healthcare is sustainable and climate-resilient if we are to continue to be able to provide safe, quality care.”
Read the full Health Care Without Harm statement here.
Media contact: Adam Pulford, 0424 885 387
The Climate and Health Alliance is Australia’s peak body on climate change and health. It has 45 member organisations, including the Public Health Association of Australia, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.