Doctors issue public health warning on Basin Flyover
26 May 2014
Doctors issue public health warning on Basin Flyover
At today’s cross-examination of public health witnesses as the Basin flyover hearings continue, the flyover’s threats to health were exposed.
Speaking for OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, Dr Alex Macmillan, Council Co-convenor and senior lecturer in Environmental Health at the Dunedin School of Medicine, said: “The Basin flyover’s biggest threat to our health is increasing climate-damaging emissions.”
“This flyover and the associated SH1 improvements, will increase greenhouse gas emissions at exactly the time when New Zealand needs to be rapidly reducing transport emissions”, says Dr Macmillan.
Dr Macmillan said that although the NZ Transport Agency does not accept the effects of the project on climate change as relevant, our changing climate is widely recognised by world health authorities and top medical journals as a leading threat to global health this century.
“The Basin flyover is part of the Roads of National Significance that encourage much greater private vehicle dependence at the expense of public and active transport – and the health of Wellingtonians”, says Dr Macmillan.
Dr Macmillan adds: “There are real opportunity costs with the funding of this flyover, when just 1400 metres down the road, Wellington’s regional hospital is crippled with debt. Ironically, by designing physical activity out of New Zealand’s transport system, NZTA is also increasing the load on hospitals.”
Research shows that physical inactivity is costing our economy around one percent of GDP including impacts on workplace productivity and individual well-being. Globally, physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of premature death. In 2010 alone, twenty-one premature deaths were attributed to physical inactivity inWellington and costs of $141 million. Research also shows that for each 1% reduction in motor vehicle distance, there is a corresponding 1.4-1.8% reduction in the incidence of road vehicle crashes.
“The NZTA has clearly not understood that transport and health spending come from the same taxpayer purse”, says Dr Macmillan. “NZTA’s failure to adequately consider a whole of raft of health impacts, physical inactivity, noise and air quality effects, road traffic injuries, and most importantly, the flyover’s impact on climate health, is clearly false economy, outdated and irresponsible.”
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council comprises senior doctors and other health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See: www.orataiao.org.nz
Notes to editors:
About Climate Change and Health
Human-caused climate change is a serious and urgent threat to human health. Climate change and its environmental manifestations (e.g. warmer temperatures, more heat waves, altered rainfall patterns, more extreme weather such as heavy rainfall events and/or drought, tropical storms, sea-level rise) result in many risks to human health, both direct and indirect, that are recognised by world health authorities and leading medical journals alike.
Globally, leading health threats include water and food shortages, extreme weather events, and changing patterns of infectious disease. In NZ there will also be new health and social pressures relating to climate migrant and refugee populations arriving in NZ and flow-on health impacts from changes in the global economy. NZ already has a relatively high burden of several diseases that are sensitive to climatic conditions, and climate trends may already be affecting the health of New Zealanders.
It has been estimated that climate change already causes 400,000 deaths per year globally through malnutrition, heat illnesses, diarrhoeal infections, vector (e.g. mosquito) borne disease, meningitis and environmental disasters; and that this number will increase substantially by 2030 if current emission patterns continue. These health impacts most seriously affect people in developing countries, and the most disadvantaged and vulnerable within all countries.
Health Co-benefits of Climate Action
Addressing climate change is an opportunity to improve population health and reduce inequities (unfair differences in health between different population groups). In NZ, well-designed policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can bring about substantial health co-benefits including reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disease, respiratory disease, and motor vehicle injuries, and improvements in mental health - with resultant cost savings for the health care system.
These co-benefits arise because some emission reductions measures impact on important determinants of health, especially energy intake (nutrition) and expenditure (physical movement). For example:
• Active transport (walking, cycling, public transport) improves physical activity, reduces emissions, and can reduce air pollution and road traffic injuries. Walking and cycling are inexpensive, and public transport is used proportionately more by people with lower incomes – with benefits to health, climate and equity.
• Healthy eating, including increased plant and less red meat and animal fat consumption, would reduce the emissions associated with food production and likely lead to reduced rates of bowel cancer and heart disease.
• Improving indoor environments (e.g. energy efficiency measures such as home insulation) can reduce illnesses associated with cold, damp housing (e.g. childhood asthma and chest infections which are leading causes of hospital admissions, particularly for Maori and Pacific children).
• Increasing energy efficiency and/or moving away from fossil fuels would reduce health-damaging air pollution (e.g. particulates) from fuel combustion, in both indoor and outdoor environments, with large health gains.
Health impacts of climate change:
Metcalfe S, Woodward A, Macmillan A, Baker M, Howden-Chapman P, et al; New Zealand Climate and Health. Why New Zealand must rapidly halve its greenhouse gas emissions [Special Article]. N Z Med J. 2009 Oct 9;122(1304):72-95. http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1304/3827/
Phipps R, Randerson R, Blashki G. The climate change challenge for general practice in New Zealand. NZ Med J. 2011 Apr 29; 124(1333): 47-54.
Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, et al. Managing the health effects of climate change: Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission. Lancet 2009,373:1693–1733. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60935-1/fulltext)
McMichael AJ. Globalization, climate change, and human health. N Engl J Med. 2013;368(14):1335-43. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1109341. (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1109341 )
World Health Organization and World Meterological Association. Atlas of Health and Climate. Geneva: WHO, 2012. (http://www.who.int/globalchange/publications/atlas/en/index.html)
Confalonieri U, Menne B, Akhtar R, Ebi KL, Hauengue M, Kovats RS, Revich B, Woodward A. Human health. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds.)]. Cambridge, UK: CambridgeUniversity Press, 2007. pp391-431. (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch8.html)
Ezzati M, Lopez AD, Rodgers A, Murray CJ (eds). Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: the global and regional burden of disease attributable to selected major risk factors (volumes 1 and 2).Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004.
Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2nd Edition: a guide to the cold calculus of a hot planet. DARA International and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, 2012. (http://daraint.org/climate-vulnerability-monitor/climate-vulnerability-monitor-2012/report/)
Joint statement: It's time to act on climate change. Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians and 17 other organisations London: Faculty of Public Health, 2008.http://www.fph.org.uk/uploads/sustainble_development_joint_statement.pdf
Joint letter 2009 from The Royal College of Physicians and 17 other professional bodies, published simultaneously in The Lancet and the BMJ. Politicians must heed health effects of climate change. Lancet. 2009;374:973; BMJ. 2009;339:b3672. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b3672. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961641-X/fulltext, http://www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b3672
Chan M. Climate change and health: preparing for unprecedented challenges. The 2007 David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture, Bethesda, Maryland, USA, 10 December 2007. (World Health Organization, Director-General speeches 2006-12.) http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2007/20071211_maryland/en/
World Medical Association. WMA Declaration of Delhi on Health and Climate Change. Adopted by the 60th WMA General Assembly, New Delhi, India, October 2009. http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/c5/index.html
New Zealand Medical Association. NZMA Position Statement on Health and Climate Change. Wellington: NZMA, 2010. http://www.nzma.org.nz/policies/advocacy/position-statements/climatechange
Health co-benefits of climate action
Chan M. Cutting carbon, improving health. Lancet. 2009;374(9705):1870-1.
Haines A, McMichael AJ, Smith KR et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: overview and implications for policy makers. Lancet. 2009;374(9707):2104-14. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)61759-1/fulltext)
West JJ, Smith SJ, Silva RA et al. Co-benefits of mitigating global greenhouse gas emissions for future air quality and human health. Nature Climate Change. 2013;3:885–889. (http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v3/n10/full/nclimate2009.htm)
Haines A, Wilkinson P, Tonne C, Roberts I. Aligning climate change and public health policies. Lancet. 2009;374(9707):2035-8. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)61667-6/fulltext)
Campbell-Lendrum D, Bertollini R, Neira M, Ebi K, McMichael A. Health and climate change: a roadmap for applied research. Lancet. 2009;373(9676):1663-5. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60926-0/fulltext)
Hosking J, Mudu P, Dora C. Health Co-benefits of Climate Change Mitigation - Transport sector. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2011. (http://www.who.int/hia/green_economy/transport_sector_health_co-benefits_climate_change_mitigation/en/index.html)
Woodcock J, Edwards P, Tonne C et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: urban land transport. Lancet. 2009;374(9705):1930-43. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961714-1/fulltext)
Lindsay G, Macmillan A, Woodward A. Moving urban trips from cars to bicycles: impact on health and emissions. Aust NZ J Public Health, 2011;35(1):54-60. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00621.x/full)
Woodcock J, Banister D, Edwards P, et al. Energy and transport. Lancet. 2007;370:1078-88.
Smith KR, Jerrett M, Anderson HR et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: health implications of short-lived greenhouse pollutants. Lancet. 2009;374(9707):2091-103. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)61716-5/fulltext)
Roberts I, Arnold E. Policy at the crossroads: climate change and injury control. Inj Prev. 2007;13:222-3.
Friel S, Dangour AD, Garnett T et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: food and agriculture. Lancet. 2009;374(9706):2016-25. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)61753-0/fulltext)
MacMillan T, Durrant R. Livestock Consumption and Climate Change: a framework for dialogue. WWF UK / Food Ethics Council, 2009. (http://www.wwf.org.uk/research_centre/?3308/Livestock-consumption-and-climate-change---A-framework-for-dialogue)
McMichael AJ, Powles JW, Butler CD, Uauy R. Food, livestock production,energy, climate change, and health. Lancet. 2007;370:1253–63.
Powles J. Why diets need to change to avert harm from global warming. Int J Epidemio.l 2000;38:1141-2. (http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/38/4/1141)
Wilson N, Nghiem N, Ni Mhurchu C, Eyles H, Baker MG, Blakely T. Foods and dietary patterns that are healthy, low-cost, and environmentally sustainable: a case study of optimization modeling for New Zealand. PLoS ONE 2013;8(3):e59648. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059648. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0059648)
Edwards P, Roberts I. Population adiposity and climate change. Int J Epidemiol. 2009;38:1137-40. (http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/38/4/1137)
Howden-Chapman P, Matheson A, Viggers H et al. Retrofitting houses with insulation to reduce health inequalities: results of a clustered, randomised trial in a community setting. BMJ. 2007;334:460-464. (http://www.bmj.com/content/334/7591/460). Erratum in: BMJ. 2007;334(7607). (http://www.bmj.com/content/334/7607/0.3)
Chapman R, Howden-Chapman P, Viggers H, et al. Retrofitting houses with insulation: a cost-benefit analysis of a randomised community trial. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2009;63:271–7.
Wilkinson P, Smith KR, Davies M et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: household energy. Lancet. 2009;374(9705):1917-29. (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961713-X/fulltext)