A national preventative health strategy is useless if it doesn’t address the risks of climate change, experts have told the responsible minister.
Numerous health groups from across the country have signed a joint statement to Health Minister Greg Hunt calling for climate change to be a key part of the national preventative health strategy.
The strategy is currently being developed, with public feedback on its consultation paper open until the end of the month.
Climate change isn’t mentioned in the paper despite health groups telling the government about the risks it poses to health.
Climate and Health Alliance executive director Fiona Armstrong was shocked at its absence.
“It’s astonishing to see there isn’t even a reference to climate change as a risk to health, when the World Health Organisation is saying this is the biggest threat there is to global public health this century,” she told AAP.
“It dwarfs COVID in terms of the risk it poses to population health.”
The strategy will guide policy and investments in health over the next decade and will be “all for naught” without addressing climate change, Ms Armstrong says.
“Experts say climate change is a threat multiplier – everything currently a risk to health is amplified by climate change.”
The joint statement is signed by groups also including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and the Australian Association of Social Workers.
An education campaign would be a simple step to help the public understand the health risks associated with climate change, and know who’s taking charge.
Since the devastating summer bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic, scores of doctors have mainly been writing mental health plans for patients
Ms Armstrong says research has shown that when people understand the link between health and climate they’re shocked they haven’t already been told.
“They’re shocked the very institutions that they think would be alerting them to danger to their health, like government departments, are not telling them. And they’re wondering why.”
Another step the government is being urged to do is move towards cleaner energy to improve air quality, which costs the nation thousands of lives and $66 billion a year.
Ms Armstrong wants the silence on climate change to stop.
“It makes people feel unnerved because they don’t know who is tacking responsibility of tackling this very complex, wicked problem.”
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