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Sunday Is World Family Doctor Day

Since 2010, the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) has celebrated World Family Doctor Day on 19 May. It is a day to acknowledge the immense contribution of GPs, family doctors and primary health care teams worldwide.

This year’s theme is ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’ and gives The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners the opportunity to showcase the efforts going on within primary care to address the effects of climate change within health and highlight the links between the health of our planet and the health of our patients.

The health sector in New Zealand contributes between 3 and 8 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

As specialist general practitioners and rural hospital doctors, we need to consider what actions we can take both in our delivery of health care, and in how we run our practices that can make a difference and reduce emissions.

College President Dr Samantha Murton says," We have all the scientific evidence we need, as well as personal experiences of our climate actually changing, but we still have not seen significant changes being made. We cannot wait for the next person to do what we need to do now."

General practitioners across the globe are leading the charge today calling for the following actions as urgent health initiatives:

  • End the expansion of any new fossil fuel infrastructure and production.
  • Phase out any existing production and use of fossil fuels.
  • Remove fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewable energy.
  • Fasttrack a just transition that addresses the needs of individuals, communities, and countries to move away from fossil fuel energy systems towards more diverse, resilient, and inclusive economies powered by renewable energy.
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"Our whole of health system change was predicated on shifting care closer to those using it. If this occurred patients, especially those in rural areas, would travel less. Ask any person travelling to an outpatient appointment about the fuel it takes, the time it takes, the hours away from work, and the follow-up communication required.

"Imagine a world where the current technology available in both community practices and hospitals was used to its best advantage. Patients come into a local service, see their GP team and/or the hospital team, fuel use is minimal, communication is easy, everyone is aware of the treatment plan, and follow up care is understood and locally delivered.

"Healthy Planet, Healthy People is not only the business of general practitioners on one day, it is the business of all of us, every day," says Dr Murton.

Read the College’s 'Climate change, health and general practice in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific' position statement.

Read more about World Family Doctor Day.

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