World Health Day 2022 - Healthcare workers ask Government to make NZ's health system climate ready and climate friendly

MEDIA RELEASE, 7 April 2022

Today is World Health Day and eleven organisations representing doctors, nurses and other health professionals have written to Health Minister Andrew Little asking that, as part of the Government’s health reforms, our healthcare system is made climate ready and climate friendly.

“World Health Day 2022 is about our planet in recognition of the many avoidable deaths due to environmental causes in particular climate change, and on this day we ask the Government to make sure our hospitals and healthcare practices are sustainable, decarbonised and prepared for climate change,” said OraTaiao Co-convenor, and GP, Dr Dermot Coffey.

OraTaiao NZ Climate & Health Council; the New Zealand Medical Association; the New Zealand Nursing Organisation; the College of Nurses; the NZ Society of Anaesthetists; the NZ College of Midwives; Hāpai Te Hauora; the Royal Australian and NZ College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; the Royal Australasian College of Physicians; The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners have written a letter to Minister Little recommending a dedicated sustainability unit, and intersectionality between the health sector and other public agencies in order to ensure that a healthy climate response becomes a central factor for decision making.

“The climate has impacts on both our physical and mental health, for example from the effects of heat, extreme weather events, spread of infectious diseases and changes to livelihoods. As healthcare professionals we see the effects on our patients and strongly feel an ethical obligation to act within human and planetary health boundaries. We need the Government to also act and recognise that, even in the middle of this Covid pandemic, healthcare professionals are still calling for action on climate change – that’s how important it is!” said Dr Coffey.

Dr Rob Burrell, The Environmental and Sustainability Network Chair of NZ Society of Anaesthetists said, “The people with the knowledge and skills to decarbonise healthcare are already working in healthcare. Healthcare redesign gives us an opportunity to do healthcare better, but also to do it more sustainably, more transparently, and with carbon reduction as a fundamental measurement of progress. What is good for the environment is good for health: carbon reduction in healthcare means better healthcare. Be ambitious Minister Little.”

 

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Media Spokesperson: Dr. Dermot Coffey (021 0267 5452) is available on Thurs 7 April.

Dr Dermot Coffey ([email protected] ) is a General Practitioner in Christchurch, and Co-Convenor of OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council is a health professional organisation urgently focusing on the health threats of climate change and the health opportunities of climate action. See: https://www.orataiao.org.nz

Notes to editors

Health professional letter to the Minister of Health, Hon Andrew Little – 7 April 2022
OraTaiao NZ Climate & Health Council; the New Zealand Medical Association; the New Zealand Nursing Organisation; the College of Nurses; the NZ Society of Anaesthetists; the NZ College of Midwives; Hāpai Te Hauora; the Royal Australian and NZ College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; the Royal Australasian College of Physicians; The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners have written to Minister Little recommending a dedicated sustainability unit, and intersectionality between the health sector and other public agencies in order to ensure that a healthy climate response becomes a central factor for decision making. See: https://www.orataiao.org.nz/letter_to_the_minister_of_health_on_world_health_day_2022

World Health Day 2022 – 7 April 2022 – “Our planet, our health”
On World Health Day 2022, the World Health Organisation is focusing global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being. See: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2022

Background

Climate change is a health crisis
Human-caused climate change is a serious and urgent threat to human health. Climate change and its environmental manifestations (e.g. warmer temperatures, more heat waves, altered rainfall patterns, more extreme weather such as heavy rainfall events and/or drought, tropical storms, sea-level rise) result in many risks to human health, both direct and indirect, that are recognised by world health authorities and leading medical journals alike. 

See an editorial published in over 200 health journals (September 2021), “Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health” https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1734 

The Climate and Health Alliance have produced a report (March 2022) summarising key health messages from the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report on Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (which is 3600+ pages). https://www.caha.org.au/caha_reports

Public health and our climate change response
WHO’s former Director General, Dr Margaret Chan stated in February 2021: “Health benefits will outweigh the costs of mitigation policies, even without considering the longer-term health and economic benefits of avoiding more severe climate change”. See https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(20)30296-5/fulltext

The World Health Organisation produced a special report on climate change and health (October 2021) setting out priority actions from the global health community to governments and policy makers, including some case studies. See https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240036727

 

 


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