Image of a hot sun depicting climate change

Climate change and your health

This is probably not the blog you were expecting – but it is something that needs to be discussed. After the catastrophic bushfires across the country, it doesn’t seem difficult to make a connection between health and the climate. In September 2019, the Australian Medical Association declared that climate change is “a health emergency.”

 

Who will be affected by climate change?

 

In 2015, the World Health Organisation called climate change the “greatest threat to global health in the 21st century” – with some parts of Australia already in danger. At risk groups are:

  • Elderly + children
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Rural and coastal areas
  • People prone to illness or with a chronic illness
  • Indigenous Australians
  • Labourers and outdoor workers
  • Emergency services

 

What can we expect?

 

Environmental changes can have many different impacts, some of which we don’t know about yet. Due to its slow nature, it is difficult to measure the number of people that have already been experiencing the negative effects of climate change. Here are some effects already taking place…

 

Heat stress

 

Rising temperatures are already likely to have increased the risk of heat-related illness and death. Temperatures are expected to continue rising, posing a major hazard to our health. Heatwaves alone are projected to increase hospital & mental health admissions as well as deaths.

 

Severe weather events

 

Severe weather events can have huge impacts on health, including acute + lasting injuries. NSW in particular has seen an extreme change in air quality due to the recent bushfires. Extreme weather events such as fires, flooding and drought will become more frequent. We should expect worsening and more frequent cases of asthma, hayfever, and dermatitis.

 

Infectious disease & food

 

More extreme weather events will increase the situations by which infectious diseases can be transmitted – especially diseases that are transmitted via insects e.g. mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, etc.

Droughts and flooding are likely to increase the concentration of pathogens in water supplies, which is particularly dangerous to rural Australians and livestock. Contaminated water and food may increase food-related illness & disease, decreasing the amount of food available – especially for remote areas where food choices are often limited.

 

Mental ill-health

 

Communities impacted by severe weather events will have additional stressors when it comes to their livelihoods and mental health. With loss of business, loss of well-being, and loss of life, the emotional toll this will have on us is incalculable.

Even without being directly impacted by this, there is a genuine hopelessness that comes with understanding the impact that climate change will have on our well-being.

 

So what now?

 

If you want to make change in your community, contact your local member of parliament. You could ask them what they’re willing to do to preserve peoples health and well-being.

 

In the meantime, here are some little gems to do over summer:

  • Adhere to water restrictions set by your local council, limit your water usage where possible
  • During heatwaves you can take refuge in cool environments like cinemas, public libraries or museums
  • Be sure to help out others during warmer weather with access to drinking water, air-cons & fans
  • Look into air purifiers with HEPA filters if you need to breathe a little easier
  • There’s no wrong time to seek help from family and friends or seek counsel with a psychologist
  • Have a read of City of Monash’s sustainability tips – https://www.monash.vic.gov.au/Services/Environment/Living-Sustainably-in-Monash
  • For an uplifting outlook and future innovations, check out the Australian film “2040”

 

 

 

Resources:

 

  1. Australian Medical Association. (2019). Climate change is a health emergency. [online] Available at: https://ama.com.au/ausmed/climate-change-health-emergency

Australian Medical Association. (2019). Climate Change and Human Health – 2004. Revised 2008. Revised 2015. [online] Available at: https://ama.com.au/position-statement/ama-position-statement-climate-change-and-human-health-2004-revised-2015

Call (03) 9570 3388