The Waitemata District Health Board has won an award for ‘Leadership in Environmental Sustainability by a Health Sector Organisation’ at this week’s Population Health Congress in Auckland.
The award, sponsored by OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council, recognises climate change as a serious and urgent health issue, and commends Waitemata District Health Board for its efforts to improve environmental sustainability and to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint.
Waitemata DHB has long recognised that human health rests on environmental wellbeing and taken action on these links through the design of hospital buildings and the actions within them. There was tough competition between healthcare organisations for this award and it recognises their leadership over many years in this area.
“Climate change is arguably the defining health issue of this century” says Dr Alex Macmillan of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council, “and the health sector is a significant contributor to a country’s GHG emissions footprint through its energy use, waste, purchasing, and associated travel”
Dr Macmillan adds. “On the positive side, GHG reduction and sustainability action by the health sector can bring about benefits to the health of staff and the wider community” says Dr Macmillan. “For example, Waitemata DHB have recognised that hospitals which support staff, patients and visitors to use more active and public transport in their travel to and from services can reap health rewards from increased physical activity and less local air pollution, as well as cutting carbon emissions” says Dr Macmillan.
Health was in the spotlight at the recent UN Climate Summit in New York attended by heads of state and marked by massive civil society protests. At the summit, the entire British National Health System issued a collective statement of intent to deliver climate friendly health services. The statement is the first example of one country’s health sector committing to tackle climate change.
“We would like the New Zealand health sector to follow the lead of health systems internationally in responding to climate change” says Dr Macmillan. “We were pleased to see a surprising number of strong contenders from both public and private healthcare organisations in the nominations for this award”.
“We strongly believe that by the health sector engaging in this work it can help to reduce climatehealth risks, bring about health co-benefits, and play a leadership role in a wider societal transition to a low carbon future” Dr Macmillan adds.
“This award celebrates Waitemata District Health Board’s trail-blazing efforts in sustainability and climate action for health protection and health promotion. “We now urge every other health organisation – public and private – to follow suit.”
Media Spokesperson: Dr Alex Macmillan, Mob. 021 322 625
Alex Macmillan ([email protected]) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago and Co-Convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand 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.nz
Notes to editors:
The New Zealand Population Health Congress is being held at the Aotea Centre in Auckland 6-8 October, with an awards dinner at the Viaduct Events Centre 7th October. The theme of the Congress is ‘Connecting communities, Policy and Science’.
UN Climate Summit Cross System Statement. Sustainable Development Unit, NHS and Public Health England. http://www.sduhealth.org.uk/policy-strategy/engagement-resources/un-climatesummit.aspx
About Climate Change and Health
Climate and health information is available in the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine’s policy statement on climate change: http://www.nzcphm.org.nz/media/67575/2013_11_6_climate_change_substantive_policy__finalcorrected_.pdf