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Medical colleges representing more than 100,000 clinicians call for climate action

Health Industry Hub | April 27, 2022 |
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Medical: In a publicly circulated letter, the signatories from medical colleges are calling on federal political leaders, ahead of the election, to commit to action in building the resilience of Australia’s healthcare system against the impacts of climate change.

One of ten signatories, RACP President and Respiratory Physician, Professor John Wilson, said “This open letter, signed by medical colleges representing over 100,000 doctors – sends a clear message to our leaders that climate change is a health crisis that we must address urgently. 

“Climate change is already having a significant impact on the Australian healthcare system. We urgently need action from our federal political leaders to address climate change, and prepare our healthcare systems for the inevitable impacts of it. Action from the international community on climate change and the recent IPCC report drive home the need for us to take stronger action here in Australia.”

The signatories want political leaders to create and fund a National Climate Change and Health Sustainability Unit to oversee the implementation of the strategy. The colleges also want leaders to invest in a national Climate Change and Health Resilience Research Fund to identify resilience strategies suited to the health system.

The letter stated, “We’re seeing the impacts of climate change on health first-hand, supporting our communities in the aftermath of horrific bushfires and devastating floods. We’re also seeing the impacts of extreme heat, particularly on older people.

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“Specialist physicians across the country are bracing for an onslaught of illness caused by the impacts of climate change. The recent floods in NSW and Queensland, unprecedented in magnitude in living memory, demonstrate why we must act now to reduce the devastating impacts of severe weather events.

“At the same time, we want to play our part in the solutions. We’re advocating for support to ensure the healthcare system can reduce its own climate footprint,” they explained.

The signatories also urged the country’s political leaders to refer to the First Nation’s history for guidance.

“In developing climate change adaptation and resilience plans, we must learn from First Peoples who have built up thousands of years of accumulated knowledge on how to live sustainably in the unique Australian landscape. We must draw on that now to inform and guide our future plans. Indigenous cultural knowledge and leadership will strengthen our response to climate change and avoid harmful unintended consequences on communities that face existing health inequities,” the letter stated.

“In addition, we join many others, including the business community, farmers and community groups, in calling for an urgent transition to net-zero emissions across all economic sectors to address the underlying causes of climate change, with support to affected communities.”

Signatories

Professor John Wilson AM
President, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians

Dr Clare Skinner
President, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine

Dr Mark Fulcher
President, Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians

Dr Vanessa Beavis
President, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists

Dr Karen Price
President, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

Dr Mary Pinder
President, The College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand

Dr Sally Langley
President, The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons

Dr Benjamin Bopp
President, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Professor Nitin Verma AM
President, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists

Associate Professor Vinay Lakra
President, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists


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