The Public Health Association of Australia has welcomed a report from the World Federation of Public Health Associations revealing the many countries lagging behind in policies that protect their populations from the adverse health impacts of climate change.
Respondents from 35 countries completed the global survey, which revealed more than half of respondent countries (51%) had no national plan to adequately protect the health of their citizens from climate change.
“In Australia the signs are already clear with increasing storms, changing weather conditions and an increasing number and ferocity of bush fires,” says PHAA CEO Michael Moore.
“It is time to ensure that health related climate issues are part of our national planning and budgeting if we are to pre-empt many avoidable illnesses and injuries.
“Already dubbed by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as the ‘greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our times,’ government policy addressing the health impacts of climate change is in urgent need of implementation,” says Moore.
“The health impacts of climate change are one of the most significant public health risks facing the global community and PHAA supports the WFPHA in encouraging governments to respond to the evidence and develop national climate and health plans to protect the health of Australians and our fellow citizens across the globe.”
At the global level, PHAA is calling for health protection and promotion to be enshrined as a central principle in global climate policies being negotiated under the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The WFPHA survey found both developed and developing nations lacked comprehensive national climate change action plans policies, however developing nations appear to be less prepared, with 70% of respondent countries reporting that either their national climate policies did not address health or there was no national climate action plan in existence.
However, of those respondent countries with National Climate Change Action Plans, less than 30% included analysis of projected climate change for their country, the majority (71%) did not include comprehensive assessment of health impacts, and around 60% had done little towards identifying vulnerable populations and infrastructure, developing public health adaptation responses, assessing coping capacity or gaps in knowledge.
A recent report in The Lancet reveals the threat to human health from climate change was so great it could undermine the last 50 years in development and global health.
However the Lancet report insists tackling climate change could be the greatest opportunity of the 21st century to improve health across the globe, highlighting that many strategies to respond to climate change also bring significant co-benefits for health, and in many cases offer ‘no-regret’ options – reducing the burden of ill-health, boosting community resilience, and reducing poverty and inequity.