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Britain, White House spotlight climate change health impacts

6 April, 2016

British health institutions and the White House spotlight the health impacts of climate change

Leading British health institutions and the Obama administration in the U.S have both brought attention to the health impacts of climate change in this last week.

The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change is a large coalition of prominent British health institutions that aims to encourage stronger action on climate change that protects and promotes health, whilst also reducing the burden on health services.

The UK Alliance is asking the UK Governments to ensure that national energy, health, transport, and agriculture policy unlocks health benefits and reduces climate-health risks.

On Monday the White House released a 300-page scientific report about the health impacts of climate change on American people.

The report says ‘climate change impacts endanger our health by affecting our food and water sources, the air we breathe, the weather we experience, and our interactions with the built and natural environments. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health continue to grow’.

John Holdren, a science advisor to the Obama administration, highlighted the impacts of climate change on the health of outdoor workers. “People who work outdoors will be unable to control their body temperature and will die,” he said.

“As health professionals we recognise the health threats of climate change” says Dr Rhys Jones of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “We also recognise that action to reduce emissions offers new ways to address the biggest causes of disease, including obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease”.

“However, in comparison to the UK and US, the NZ Government has not undertaken a formal health risk assessment for New Zealanders, and health impacts and co-benefits have so far been ignored in climate policy making,” says Dr Jones.

“The Government has not been listening to the concerns and recommendations of New Zealand health groups, outlined in numerous submissions and last year’s ‘Call for Action on Health and Climate Change’.

“Maori, Pacific people, children, the elderly, and those on low incomes will face the greatest health impacts in the short-term, but very few people will be immune to the widespread health and social threats of unchecked climate change,” says Dr Jones.

“New Zealand health professionals and health organisations will continue to speak out. We are backed by a rising tide of doctors, nurses and other health professionals demanding healthy climate action in their own countries, and globally, for health and survival”.

Dr Rhys Jones (Ngati Kahungunu) () is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, and Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate Climate and Health Council.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council are 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:

UK Health Alliance on Climate Change founding members here, see and twitter: @UKHealthClimate

The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States. A Scientific Assessment. U.S Global Change Research Programme.

NZ Health Groups’ Call for Action on Climate Change and Health, presented to NZ Government October 2015 here.

NZ specific climate-health information in the NZ Medical Journal:
‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’.

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