Date Published: 27 January 2009
Climate change health research welcomed
The Australian Medical Association has welcomed research commissioned by the Federal Government into the health impacts of climate change, saying the results should help inform a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change.
AMA Vice President, Dr Gary Speck, said present and future health impacts demand a strategic approach from governments, particularly in the development of health infrastructure at all levels.
“Research initiatives such as the one announced today by Climate Change Minister, Senator Penny Wong, should help ensure that Australia can respond effectively to the health impacts of climate change.
We are already seeing some of the impacts, with a virulent outbreak of dengue fever in Queensland and predictions that this could move south.
This situation reinforces the importance of research and planning to ensure health authorities are equipped to deal with new threats, both in terms of providing acute care and in prevention.
We also need to better prepare for a future in which scientists predict an increase in extreme climate events and their potentially devastating impact on communities including immediate fatalities and injuries as well as follow up issues such as disease control.
Climate change could also see a resurgence of old diseases, the redistribution of others, and the emergence of new diseases which have been linked to altered climate and changing ecological balances.
As we have seen in Queensland, the transmission of certain arboviruses, transmitted via mosquito bites, is particularly susceptible to environmental conditions. Even social responses to climate change, such as the resurgence of back yard water tanks, can have health implications such as the risk of mosquitoes.
Another major impact we are very concerned about relates to mental health. Most jurisdictions are already woefully under resourced in mental health services. The far-reaching impact of climate change, including the potential displacement of entire communities through drought and extreme climate events such as fire and floods, demands an investment in appropriate mental health infrastructure. This is particularly critical for rural and remote communities.
Research such as that announced by the Government today is welcome and necessary as it can inform development of health policies and practices that will better prepare us to deal effectively with real health issues caused by climate change.”