The Federal Government has started consulting on Australia’s first national health and climate strategy, which will help prepare the health system to meet the challenges of climate change.
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney and Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy Jenny McAllister held a roundtable last week to discuss the strategy, including the steps the health and aged care sectors could take to reduce their carbon footprint.
The government says the health sector contributes about 7% to Australia’s emissions.
The strategy will involve a three-year action plan to help the healthcare system better prepare for more frequent and severe weather events, extreme temperatures and poor air quality, which are likely to increase demand on services and increase presentations of specific conditions.
These include the spread of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis, increased mental health diagnoses and increased food and water insecurity.
In the federal budget held in October last year, the government committed $3.4 million to fund the strategy along with setting up a National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit to be located within the Department of Health and Aged Care.
Ms Kearney said it was important to ensure that the health system was prepared to deal with climate change, considering its effects were only expected to intensify in the coming years.
“The health impacts of climate change cannot be understated. We are already seeing it from floods, fires, droughts and heatwaves, there are very real threats to the health and wellbeing of all Australians,” she said in a statement last week.
“Our health and aged care sectors are already stretched and under pressure.
“The health sector must be prepared but it also should be part of the solution.”
The consultations will involve state and territory governments along with peak bodies.