A joint Call to Action on Climate Change and Health for the incoming government by ten New Zealand health organisations was formally released today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, following a week of health and civil society action at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York.
The summit featured a strong contingent of health leaders, including the US Surgeon General, Editor-in-Chief of the Lancet medical journal, and the World Health Organization, as well as being attended by many heads of state.
In the lead-up to the UN Climate Summit, 400,000 people hit the streets in New York for the ‘People’s Climate March’. “People everywhere are making the links between climate change, human health, and survival,” says Dr Rhys Jones of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “Rather than seeing climate change as an ‘environmental’ issue, it’s becoming increasingly clear to people and health organisations that it is quite literally a matter of life and death,” Dr Jones adds.
Also in association with the summit, the British National Health System has 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.
The ten organisations behind New Zealand’s Call to Action on Climate Change and Health include national professional bodies for doctors, nurses, midwives, public health professionals, and medical students.
The Call to Action recognises human-caused climate change as an increasingly serious and urgent threat to health and fairness in New Zealand, as well as worldwide. On the other hand, the Call to Action emphasises that specific policies to address climate change could bring about exciting opportunities to improve health and create a fairer society.
“The New Zealand health sector voice needs to join those voices being raised internationally – in other health systems, international medical journals and world health authorities – to make climate change a mainstream public health issue in New Zealand,” says Dr Jones.
The Call to Action highlights a number of actions that could bring about win-wins for health and climate, as well as providing significant social and economic benefits to New Zealanders. “Rapid moves to much more walking, cycling and public transport; a transition to healthier plant based diets; and energy efficient, warm homes will reduce heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory disease while also helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions,” says Dr Jones.
“The health sector must press for urgent, health protecting action on climate change by the incoming government, to minimise harm and seize the opportunities for a healthier, fairer society,” Dr Jones ends.
Media Spokesperson: Dr Rhys Jones, Mob. 021 411 743
Dr Rhys Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.nz
Notes to editors:
New Zealand Medical Journal editorial discussing the joint ‘Call to Action on Climate Change and Health’ (embargoed until midnight 25 September 2014).