Health groups lobby candidates on climate impacts

Public health professionals campaign to make the health impacts of climate change an issue in the Wentworth by-election.

Professional groups and unions representing health professionals across Australia are calling on all the candidates in the high-profile Wentworth by-election to support a national strategy on climate change and health.

Independent candidate for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps is expected to announce her support today for a national strategy, based on a framework developed by health stakeholders.

Last month the Queensland Government launched an adaption plan to guide health, aged care and childcare services on ways to manage the threats that climate changes poses to human health through extreme weather, drought and increased disease outbreaks.

Public health professionals say the Queensland plan is an example of the type of strategy that is currently lacking in Australia at the national level.

The Labor Party and the Greens have expressed their support for a national strategy.

Dr Peter Tait of the Public Health Association of Australia said the recent IPCC report showed that health impacts increase inexorably as temperatures rise.

“The PHAA supports this policy framework for a National Strategy for Climate, Health and Well-being. We call on all parties and independents to support it, and work together to implement it as a national priority,” Mr Tait said.

Brett Holmes, secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said nurses and midwives are increasingly witnessing the effects of climate change, which includes more heart attacks during heat waves and increased admissions related to worsening air pollution and heat stress.

Those particularly affected are older people, children, those in aged care, people with chronic illnesses, and those requiring prescription medications, he said.

“Leadership on this issue is long overdue. This must be made a priority by all parliamentarians, and all levels of government. We need action now,” Mr Holmes said.

The executive director of Climate and Health Alliance, Fiona Armstrong, said the health sector is calling out for a coordinated national response.

“The sector has worked together in an unprecedented way to provide guidance for governments on this issue. It’s time for implementation.”

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