Our climate, our health: WHO calls for urgent action by NZ health professionals

Today the World Health Organization is calling for health professionals around the world to push for a strong effective climate agreement at the UN Climate Conference in Paris this December. In the WHO’s words, “health professionals have a duty of care to current and future generations”.

Dr Alex Macmillan, co-convenor of OraTaiao, NZ’s Climate and Health Council, says that the WHO claims the Paris Climate Conference can create “the most important health agreement of the century”.

“The WHO states clearly that this is an opportunity to not only address the climate crisis and its health consequences, but to also create large, immediate health gains, reducing costs to health systems and communities”, explains Dr Macmillan.

More details on the WHO’s call can be found at its webpage dedicated to its global change campaign at http://www.who.int/globalchange/global-campaign/en/

“As well as calling for strong effective action to limit climate changes and avoid unacceptable risks to global health, the WHO is calling for climate adaptation finance to be scaled up and for actions address climate change and improve health at the same time.”

The WHO is calling for NZ health professionals to both sign up to the WHO’s call and to commit to lead by example. “The WHO is urging health professionals to raise awareness, to help create real climate action that protects our country, communities and workplaces, and minimises climate-damaging pollution from our health systems”, says Dr Macmillan. OraTaiao has already led a Joint Health Call to Action in NZ, supported by a growing number of health professional groups calling for urgent climate health action.

OraTaiao shares our Prime Minister’s concern for thousands of people dying and millions displaced from the Syrian conflict linked to prolonged damaging droughts. Our Council’s research shows climate changes also hit the most vulnerable NZ households first and worst.

“It’s time to make our climate and our health the priority” says Dr Macmillan. “We need to make healthy transport choices the easy choices and ensure every New Zealander can live in a healthy energy-efficient home.  We need to encourage less meat and dairy in our daily diets and we need sustainability advisers in every DHB cutting climate-damaging carbon and healthcare costs.”

“It’s clear from today’s WHO call that climate action is high priority for all health professionals”, concludes Dr Macmillan.


Media Spokesperson: Dr Alex Macmillan, Mob. 021 322 625


The WHO’s call is for an international climate agreement that promotes:
• strong effective action to limit climate change – avoiding unacceptable risks to global health
• scaling up financing for adaptation to climate change
• actions that both reduce climate change and improve health

The WHO is also asking health professionals globally to commit to leading by example, including:
• raising awareness of climate health impacts and immediate health gains from climate action
• helping develop measures to limit climate changes, protecting communities and workplaces
• minimising environmental impacts of our own health systems whilst creating better health services

More details on the WHO’s call can be found at its webpage dedicated to its global change campaign at http://www.who.int/globalchange/global-campaign/en/

and ‘Our climate, our health: It’s time for all health professionals to take action’ at www.who.int/mediacentre/commentaries/climate-change-conference/en/

The WHO is asking health professionals and health organisations to join the call, by signing at http://www.who.int/globalchange/global-campaign/call-for-action/en/.

The WHO’s call aligns with calls by the World Medical Association for health to have greater priority in United Nations climate change talks, where the WMA sees climate change as the greatest global health challenge of the 21st century. The WMA has called on all of its 111 national medical associations, representing 10 million doctors throughout the world, NZ included, to engage http://www.wma.net/en/40news/20archives/2015/2015_22/index.html

Dr 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 and Health Council are health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. The Council also promotes the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See: www.orataiao.org.nz

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