Pages tagged "Medical"

  • The health implications of energy choices in Australia

    CAHA Executive Director Fiona Armstrong was invited to speak at this high level health event held in Paris during COP21 - 'Health Professionals in Action on Healthy Energy and Climate' organised by Health and Environment Alliance Europe (HEAL) held at Conseil National de l'Ordre de Medecins (CNOM) on 4th December 2015. A transcript of her presentation appears below:

    Quote: "The health implications of energy policy decisions should be core business for public health professionals. Governments and policymakers are being influenced by industry incumbents to support the status quo; health professionals must highlight the direct and immediate harms to health from burning fossil fuels for electricity and transport, as well as the dramatic changes this causes to our global climate."

    Fiona Armstrong @ HEAL CNOM COP21 Healthy Energy

    "In Australia, it is estimated that the adverse health impacts from pollutants produced from coal fired electricity generation cost A$2.6 billion annually (likely a huge underestimate). The production?and combustion of petroleum and diesel for transport is a major source of air pollution that causes respiratory, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Air pollution results in 3000 premature deaths each year in Australia, and costs the nation up to $24.3 billion in health expenses every year. The DARA Climate Vulnerability Monitor estimated in 2012 the global costs to human health associated with the carbon intensive energy systems of the global economy is $540 billion each year, excluding health impacts resulting from climate change. If climate impacts on health are included, the total current cost to the global economy is estimated to be $1.2 trillion annually.

    • National action

    The Climate and Health Alliance has been leading an effort to focus the attention of health groups and policymakers on the health implications of energy choices since 2013. We convened a Roundtable of health leaders on this topic in 2013, including our Chief Medical Officer, representatives from public health, medical, and nursing organisations, as well as bureaucrats from health and energy departments, energy consultants and community advocates. We invited health sector stakeholders to consider their role in advocating for healthy energy choices, leading to the development of a Joint Statement as well as a comprehensive Position Paper and Background Paper on Health and Energy Choices (some copies are available here today and can be downloaded from the CAHA website).

    We also produced a film called the Human Cost of Power featuring public and environmental health experts discussing the risks to health from our current fossil based sources of power for electricity and transport as a public education tool. This year we turned our attention to the most carbon intensive region in Australia, the coal mining region of the Hunter Valley in NSW, in a report which documented the health impacts of the coal production cycle on local communities, and evaluated the economic costs associated with coal for local communities, for the regional and national economy and also to the global economy in terms of the contribution of Hunter Valley coal to global climate change. We have used these reports and the film to influence national and regional policy debates and have been successful in getting the issue on the political agenda in the case of the Hunter Valley report, with politicians from both major parties being publicly asked to respond to the report and its findings, and provoking a ferocious attack on the evidence we presented by the coal industry lobby group, who claims there was "absolutely no evidence" of harm to health from coal.

    Our calls for a moratorium on new coal are now being embraced by mainstream economic commentators, and the health impacts of coal now much more widely discussed in mainstream media. So far, there has been little response from national and state governments “ national energy policy documents remain delusional in the sense that they predict a strong future for coal and gas, and very often they ignore, and do not mention, climate change as an energy policy. From the community there has been a shift however, with a rapid increase in the take up of solar power, and adoption of energy efficiency measures, coupled with a carbon price, did lead to a drop in Australia's emissions a year or so ago. However the election of a Liberal-National Coalition government, with a climate sceptic as leader (only recently replaced), saw the removal of the carbon price and Australia's emissions are surging upwards again. Some of the responses from the NGO and third sector are more promising, with churches, universities, and superannuation companies pledging to limit their investments in coal. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Together with Doctors for the Environment Australia we will release a paper next year on the role of the health sector in divestment so we hope to see many more such announcements.

    • Lesson learnt:

    Casting energy policy as a health issue, and using it to draw attention to the health impacts of fossil fuel energy production, as well as being a climate change issue, has made the issue more accessible for some health professionals “ as they can appreciate the immediate, direct and local health impacts are an important issue for health professionals to intervene on. It helps to highlight the root causes and drivers of climate change as a point source health issue. This seems somewhat easier to grasp and to act on in some ways than the global impacts of climate change. The evidence shows that people care about their health “ and using this as framework for communicating the need for change in energy policy choices is something local communities and other advocates appreciate is powerful and effective in convincing many people (although not Australian politicians, yet) that burning fossil fuels is dangerous, outdated and there is no place for it in a healthy, sustainable, low carbon world."

  • Powerful alliances pushing for action on climate change, locally and globally

    by Mark Hayes via Croakey The threat to human health from climate change is so great that it could undermine many of the gains in development and global health of the last fifty years.

    And yet according to the report, actions to tackle climate change could be the greatest opportunity to improve global health.

    The initial 2009 Lancet report titled, Managing the health effects of climate change, labelled climate change as "the biggest global health threat of the 21st century".

    Climate change is known to impact on health directly through increased injuries and deaths from heat stress, floods, droughts, and storms.

    Beyond these, there are potentially greater indirect impacts: the spread of climate-sensitive infectious diseases; air pollution affecting respiratory diseases; food insecurity; nutritional problems; mass migration and conflict; and mental health.

    However, the momentous new release, to be marked by launch events all over the globe and starting in Melbourne, provides comprehensive new evidence that actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change have significant direct and indirect positive health benefits.

    Six years on from the 2009 report, the new multidisciplinary and international Commission draws on experts from a range of fields, including public health; climate science; geography; ecology; engineering; economics; political science; and public policy.

    They conclude that many mitigation and adaption responses to climate change are "no regrets policies" that are possible right now, and accrue health co-benefits.

    In particular, the report cites health and economic gains from reduced air pollution and transition to sustainable cities that promote healthy lifestyles.

    It recommends rapidly phasing out coal as part of an early and decisive policy package aimed at reducing the health burden of particulate matter and other air pollutants.

    Moreover, the development of energy efficient buildings; low cost active transport; and green urban spaces will not only clean up the air we breath, but will also reduce road traffic accidents, obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke.

    The report emphasises that achieving a decarbonised global economy, and the associated public health benefits, is no longer a technical or economic question, but rather it is now a political one.

    In the lead up to the pivotal UN climate negotiations in Paris this December this report calls for bold political commitment.

    Echoing this call for action are leading health and medical groups in Australia who have welcomed the new publication.

    The Nossal Institute for Global Health, Australian Medical Association (Victoria), Public Health Association of Australia (Victoria), the Australian Medical Students Association, the Climate and Health Alliance and the Melbourne Sustainable Societies Institute are cohosting a forum in Melbourne, with Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty set to launch the publication in Australia.

    Australian National University, the Royal Australian College of Physicians, University of Western Australia, the Climate Council, and Adelaide University are all hosting events in the following days and months.

    With the Australian government expected to release its revised emission reduction targets in mid-July, time will soon tell if our leaders will hear the calls from health professionals.

    The solutions are available and effective.

    Health communities around the globe agree that we can, and must, act now to protect our health now and into the future.

    Source: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2015/06/23/powerful-publishers-pushing-for-action-on-climate-change-locally-and-globally/

  • Electronic networking does work!

    A report from the ˜Environmentally sustainable practice in hospitals and community settings' seminar 15 May 2015

    Janet Roden, Professional Officer in the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWN&MA), and Peter Sainsbury, Director of Population Health in South Western Sydney Local Health District, met in 2014 on a Global Green and Healthy Hospitals webinar organised by CAHA Convenor Fiona Armstrong. Out of that meeting the two of them organised an ˜Environmental Health Seminar' attended by 50 health professionals at Liverpool Hospital on 15 May 2015 “ a first in NSW for collaboration between a local health district and the NSWN&MA on environmental sustainability.

    The focus of the seminar was on environmentally sustainable practices in hospital and community settings and the 50 health professionals present heard a tremendous array of knowledgeable speakers, all of who have runs on the board promoting environmental sustainability in their own workplaces. Debbie Wilson, Sustainability Officer with the Counties Manukau District Health Board in New Zealand, focused in her keynote speech on outlining the activities of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network and the environmental initiatives they have introduced in Manukau.

    In the afternoon, Debbie talked about the identification and management of toxic chemicals in health services. Other speakers included Chris Hill talking about the initiatives taken to promote environmental sustainability at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane; Terrona Ramsay and Aileen Thomas describing the very innovative approaches adopted to make the small regional health service at Kooweerup in Victoria greener; Michelle Skrivanic and Alison Brannelly talking about the initiatives nurses can take in large hospitals, for instance reducing and separating waste in operating theatres; and Matt Power from St Vincent's Health Australia describing how health services can improve energy efficiency.

    And somewhere amongst all that we found time for lots discussion with the audience, much of it focussing on the practicalities of (and problems associated with) encouraging health services to become more environmentally sustainable. All in all, a very practical and enjoyable day ¦ and all because of professional speed dating. Click on the links below for podcast recordings of the presentations:

  • How to make your conference carbon neutral (or even carbon negative)

    Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) take some real climate action Henry West Embedded image permalink For many years the World Health Organisations (WHO) have made it clear that the health care sector should lead by example in terms of reducing climate change pollutants and by demonstrating how climate change mitigation can yield tangible, immediate health benefits. At the recent Australian Medical Student Association (AMSA) Global Health Conference (GHC) in Hobart the challenge this viewpoint presents to us was taken up with vigor. For the first time ever an AMSA event was completely carbon neutral and actually carbon negative. This was no minor undertaking, as the conference was very well attended with over 500 people present; nearly 200 tonnes of CO2 were offset. This was achieved via two internationally recognised projects coordinated by Climate Friendly, a large Australian carbon-offsetting firm. One of the projects in particular had immediate health benefits and was of particular satisfaction to the GHC organising committee. This project was a Cambodian one that actively replaces highly polluting indoor wood/charcoal fired cooking stoves with new far more efficient and clean ones, the New Lao Stove (NLS). The NLS was developed by GERES, an NGO ?that has been operating in the region for many years. More efficient than traditional stove models, the NLS uses 20-30% less fuel-wood and charcoal, thereby reducing CO2 emissions from cooking. This has immediate and dramatic health impacts for whole families, mostly regarding respiratory health, in conjunction with the large CO2 mitigation. For AMSA to be taking positive action in this way, by providing budgetary means for events to be offset and also personnel to ensure that reductions in impacts are made in the first place is a testament to their commitment to both global health and also playing their part in addressing the climate emergency we are facing. I encourage all to consider the impact of their own events in the health care sector, whether it is in management or simple attendance. Cleaning up our own backyard allows us to encourage and assist others to do the same. When we are in the business of health care contributing to what will likely be the greatest health threat of the 21st century is not acceptable. Embedded image permalink Henry West was the Environmental Officer for the AMSA 2013 GHC and is the 2013 Student Representative for Doctors for the Environment Australia in Tasmania. He is a student at UTAS.
  • DOHA Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing

    The international health and medical community have developed a joint statement on climate health and wellbeing calling for health to be central to climate action during the COP18 international climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar. Signatories to the Doha Declaration for Climate, Health and Wellbeing include the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, International Federation of Medical Students, Health Care Without Harm, European Public Health Association, Royal College of General Practitioners (UK), Climate and Health Council, OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council, NHS Sustainable Development Unit, UmeÃ¥ Center for Global Health Research, Climate and Health Alliance, Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, Doctors Reform Society, Australian Association of Social Workers, and the Australian Medical Students Association and many others. The Doha Declaration calls for health to be central to climate action, and highlights the opportunities to improve health through emissions reductions - pointing out that reducing fossil fuel consumption and moving to low carbon energy systems can deliver many benefits to health worldwide. "The impact of climate change on health is one of the most significant measures of harm associated with our warming planet," the Declaration says. "Protecting health is therefore one of the most important motivations for climate action." This effort builds on the collaboration at the 2011 global climate and health summit among the health and medical community in advocate for climate action. The Doha Declaration outlines why health experts are extremely worried about the slow progress at the international climate negotiations, and highlights how the health co-benefits of emissions can build support for ambitious climate action. This joint statement from the global health community reiterates policy demands from the 2011 Durban Declaration and Global Call to Action urging countries to consider the health implications of climate change as well as the health benefits of climate action “ which can provide savings that either largely or completely offset the costs of mitigation and adaptation. This statement will be used in discussion with policy makers in Doha, but also serves as roadmap of future action. See the CAHA media release here. If you want to support this statement, sign up here: www.dohadeclaration.weebly.com

  • A conversation with the Climate Commission

    Climate and Health Alliance members and other health professionals and health service executives met with the Australian Government Climate Commission on Wednesday 25th July 2012 at Sunshine Hospital to discuss health and climate change.

    The meeting was hosted by Western Health CEO Kathryn Cook at the new Sunshine Hospital and made possible by Friends of CAHA and Doctors for the Environment member Dr Forbes McGain and his colleague at Western Health, sustainability officer Catherine O'Shea. Commissioners Tim Flannery, Lesley Hughes, Roger Beale and Gerry Hueston and Commission media advisor Amanda McKenzie attended the meeting with around 25 people including health professionals from medicine, nursing, allied health, psychology and public health disciplines, as well as health care services and policy people. Some of the topics of discussion included: What does health sector know about climate change? What can be done to build a greater awareness among health professionals about the risks to health from climate change? What are the opportunities for the health sector to demonstrate leadership in responding to, and being seen to respond to, climate change? A lack of awareness among health professionals about the implications of climate change for health was raised as a barrier to the sector effectively responding. The education of all health professionals on climate and health was considered vital and urgent - including from undergraduate level to continuing professional development for the existing workforce. Professor Lesley Hughes presented the findings from the Commission's report on climate change and health and its latest report on climate impacts and opportunities for Victoria. Professor Tim Flannery explained why they were keen to engage with health professionals: to raise awareness about the implications for health from climate change but also to encourage health professionals to use their own status as respected members of the community to help build community understanding about the need to respond urgently to climate change. Professor Flannery's comments to media before the meeting summed this up: "Climate change is one of the serious threats to Victoria's health, especially those in our community who are most vulnerable, like the elderly and the very young. Few Australians are aware of the risks to their health and the health of their family and community. While much of the public discussions on climate change have emphasised the environmental impacts, a greater focus needs to be on the health consequences. Climate change must be considered a public health priority.'' The meeting was then opened to discussion, with participants encouraged to ask the Commission questions about their report https://climatecommission.gov.au/report/the-critical-decade-climate-change-and-health/ and to discuss what needed to be done to raise awareness among the health community about climate change. Some of the challenges that were raised included:

    • the quarantining of public health sector budgets separating capital from operational expenditure made it difficult to make the case for the implementation of energy efficiency measures as the impact of costs were felt in one budgetary area and the savings realized in another.
    • Other socio-cultural challenges include the complex psychological responses to climate change and the difficulties in finding effective ways to communicate such a complex science in ways that are not disempowering and alarming. Serious concerns were raised about the neglect of mental health risks and the lack of preparedness to respond to severe risks to mental health.
    • The need to engage young people in particular was noted and the importance of including their voices and their concerns in relation to how we respond to climate change.
    • A lack of climate ˜literacy' among health professionals was considered a barrier to health professionals understanding the implications of, and the need to respond to, climate change. Education about climate change and health is needed in undergraduate and postgraduate curricula for all health professionals, as well as in continuing professional development for current practitioners, the meeting heard.
    • There is also a need for the health sector to gain an understanding of the gendered nature of the health implications of climate change and climate policy, especially in relation to the differential effect of climate change on women.
    • Other concerns were raised about the mistruths being promoted in the community by the Victorian Health Minister David Davis in a recent brochure claiming the carbon tax would hurt health by driving up energy costs.
    • While there is some degree of preparedness that will help the health sector respond to climate change, with emergency power supplies, and heatwaves plans, overall the health sector is not well prepared to respond to climate impacts. Responses to other risks to health from increased ozone, affecting respiratory health; food and water borne disease and threats to infrastructure from extreme weather event were not well developed and pose potentially serious risks.

    Climate Commission media advisor Amanda McKenzie advised health professionals to see the issue as an opportunity for the health sector to make a strong case for action to cut emissions that will also benefit public health and urged health professionals to use their respected and trusted role to build community understanding and action. Ms McKenzie's final question to the participants: "What can the Commission do to elevate the voice of health professionals on this issue?" is the subject of continuing discussion, and CAHA will share further feedback from members on this subsequently. The meeting closed with the message that the climate communications evidence suggests that when climate change is talked about as a health issue, people are much more likely to respond as they see it in an individual context and as something that is personally relevant to them, rather than as a global environmental issue which is distant in time and space ("in the future, someone else, somewhere else"). Coupled with the evidence that action on climate change can help reduce many existing disease burdens, and the esteem with which health professionals are held in the community, this makes for a powerful combination and a great opportunity for health professionals to influence this national and international conversation to help achieve better outcomes for health and wellbeing.

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