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Doctors Demand Healthy Response to our Changing Climate

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Doctors Demand Healthy Response to our Changing Climate

With the general election just months away, New Zealand doctors are demanding real action on our country’s most pressing health challenges, including climate change.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council is endorsing today’s warning by the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine for the country to brace itself for the health impacts of climate change. The Council adds that there are real opportunities to improve health dramatically through urgent action to curb climate change.

“We agree with the College, New Zealand has unprecedented opportunities for real gains on illnesses relating to child poverty, physical inactivity, nutrition, and housing – while future-proofing ourselves against the serious health risks of a changing global climate”, says Dr Alex Macmillan from the Council.

“Climate change is already contributing to the global burden of disease and premature death, with worse to come. This is especially true for developing countries but also for Maori, Pacific and lower socio economic groups within New Zealand, widening existing health injustice.”

“At the same time, we have exciting opportunities to make a real difference to New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing right now with well-planned policies that promote health and fairness – and protect our climate” says Dr Macmillan. Benefits would include reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, respiratory disease, motor vehicle injuries, musculoskeletal and other conditions, and improvements in mental health.”

“Making sure that every child in New Zealand lives in a warm well-insulated home would make a huge difference to hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses. Targeting low income households for smart energy subsidies could free limited income for healthier food as well as reducing climate risk.”

“Turning to transport,” says Dr Macmillan, “low-carbon travel (walking, cycling, scootering, skateboarding and public transport) improves physical activity, and reduces air pollution and road traffic injuries. Each year New Zealanders lose 40,000 years of healthy life from physical inactivity and at least $780 million in health costs and lost productivity from obesity related illnesses. Our country is paying a high price for transport infrastructure that encourages car use – designing exercise out of our daily lives, increasing climate risk and reducing economic resilience.”

The Council looks forward to promises of real progress on New Zealand’s most pressing health challenges for September’s election. “With unprecedented opportunities for serious health gains and health sector savings for New Zealanders, a healthy response to our changing global climate is the obvious choice for government” says Dr Macmillan.

ENDS

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