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Doctors call for immediate climate treatment – not denial

Friday 4 April 2014

Doctors call for immediate climate treatment – not continued denial

With the release of the latest report this week by the world’s leading climate scientists, New Zealand doctors are calling for a real response to climate change, whichrepresents a huge risk to every aspect of society including human health.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council points to the warning about the serious health risks of climate change by Professor Alistair Woodward of theUniversity of Auckland, the lead author of the climate report’s human health chapter.

Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor of the Climate and Health Council says: “There is still too much unhealthy denial on too many levels in New Zealand. We are wastingprecious opportunities to make a dramatic difference to health in this country and to protect ourselves from the very real threats posed by our changing climate.”

“Within New Zealand” says Dr Jones, “climate change is expected to widen existing health injustice for Maori, Pacific and lower socioeconomic groups, as well asimposing high costs on our economy.”

“We also agree with Professor Woodward that there are many ways to reduce future climate risk and at the same time promote present-day health and wellbeing”says Dr Jones. “There are 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.”

“Instead of unhealthy denial of reality, we have exciting opportunities to make a positive difference to New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing right now with policies thatpromote health and fairness – and protect our climate” says Dr Jones. “We could make real health gains with reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2diabetes, respiratory disease, motor vehicle injuries, and improvements in mental health.”

“Warm, well-insulated homes would make a huge difference to hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses. Our high-emissions transport infrastructure is designingexercise out of our daily lives with unhealthy results for ourselves and our climate. Each year New Zealanders lose 40,000 years of healthy life from physical inactivityand at least $780 million in health costs and lost productivity from obesity related illnesses.”

The Council calls for an end to the unhealthy denial that has paralysed New Zealand’s climate response for too long. “Our government has failed to acknowledge thesheer size and complexity of the problems we face. We need effective climate action now – as with most health treatments, the sooner we start, the better the outlookfor New Zealanders” says Dr Jones.

ENDS

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council

www.orataiao.org.nz

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