Experts highlight stark climate-health risks at NZ population health congress

Climate change and health discussions have featured strongly on day three of the NZ Population Health Congress in Auckland.

Professor Kirk Smith, a lead author on the health chapter in the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (AR5), spoke in a plenary session, stressing our responsibility to protect the babies born today from the climate-health impacts that will result from our current business-as usual greenhouse gas (GHG) trajectory.

Professor Smith argued that if we are prepared to invest in getting teenagers to stop smoking, when the major health risks are some decades into the future, then we must similarly act on climate change to protect current and future health.

The programme has also featured a ‘master class’ on climate change and health delivered by New Zealand’s own lead author on the IPCC AR5 health chapter, Professor Alistair Woodward, and other climate-health experts from OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.

“Climate change is already contributing to the global burden of disease and premature death, with worse to come” says Dr Rhys Jones of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “Climate change is a health threat for all New Zealanders, with Māori, Pacific people, children, the elderly, and low income groups likely to be the hardest hit”.

“At the same time we have exciting opportunities to make a real difference to health and create a fairer society through well-designed climate policies” Dr Jones says.

“Housing insulation, better diets, clean energy, great public transport and safer walking and cycleways will all give a double benefit. They give immediate health benefits, especially to New Zealand's poorest families, and also lead the way on reducing GHG emissions” says Dr Jones.

“Climate change is arguably the defining health issue of our time” says Dr Jones. “We look forward to this Congress sparking urgent action in the health sector, government and wider society to address climate change in New Zealand”.

ENDS

Media Spokesperson: Dr Rhys Jones, Mob. 021 411 743

Dr Rhys Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) (rg.jones@auckland.ac.nz) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, and Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate Climate and Health Council.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council comprises senior doctors and other health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See: www.orataiao.org.nzotes to editors:

Background

The New Zealand Population Health Congress is being held at the Aotea Centre 6-8 October 2014. It has over 600 delegates and is attended by some of the most prominent population health leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand.


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