MEDIA RELEASE
16 September 2014

‘Call to action on climate change and health’ from health organisations

Ten New Zealand health organisations have released a joint ‘Call to Action on Climate Change and Health’ today.

The ten organisations, including national professional bodies for doctors, nurses, midwives and medical students, say they recognise climate change as an increasingly serious and urgent threat to health and fairness in New Zealand and worldwide. In contrast, they point to specific policy responses that provide exciting opportunities to improve health and create a fairer society.

The ‘Call to Action’ identifies serious health threats for New Zealanders, including direct impacts from extreme heat and weather events, changing patterns of infectious disease, and rising food prices impacting on nutrition.

“There will also be flow-on health effects from climate change impacts on people’s livelihoods and homes in New Zealand and the Pacific – causing forced migration and mental health impacts” say Dr Rhys Jones and Dr Alex Macmillan, Co-convenors of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “New Zealand has already had its first claim for refugee status on the basis of climate change impacts on Kiribati – this is a clear warning about what lies ahead” says Dr Jones.

“These health impacts will be worst for Māori, Pacific people, children, the elderly and low income households, worsening the unfair distribution of ill-health that already exists here” Dr Jones adds.

However the ‘Call to Action’ is also hopeful in stating that well-planned government and societal action on climate change in New Zealand could improve health and fairness if implemented urgently.

“Rapid moves to much more walking, cycling and public transport; a transition to healthier plant based diets; and energy efficient, warm homes will all help cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while also reducing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory disease” says Dr Macmillan. “New Zealand’s carbon-intensive health sector should be leading by reducing its own emissions and helping society adapt to expected climate change impacts.”

The ‘Call to Action on Climate Change and Health’ calls for a rapid, society-wide transition to a low GHG-emitting nation, in a way that improves health and fairness. It also calls for New Zealand to be a better leader in pushing for effective and fair global action to reduce GHG emissions.

“This call to action highlights climate change as a key health issue that requires an urgent response. The next five years really are ‘make or break’ in terms of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change and reaping the benefits, so we need leaders who can contribute effectively to global action. It is important that this is in New Zealanders’ minds as they vote over the coming days” Dr Macmillan ends.

ENDS

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