New survey data from Asthma Australia reveals 70 per cent of Australians think governments should act to protect people whose health is vulnerable to climate change, yet the Federal Government’s consultation paper for its National Health and Climate Strategy fails to mention ways to protect human health as an objective, says Asthma Australia.
Instead, the Federal Government’s consultation paper for the Strategy largely focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the health care system.
CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman is urging the Government to provide an opportunity for further discussion around the Strategy and its actions, to ensure it will protect the 2.7 million people with asthma and others who are at greater risk of health issues as a result of climate change.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the healthcare system is an important objective for the National Health and Climate Strategy, but if it fails to prioritise actions to protect health and wellbeing, it may simply be a health sector decarbonisation strategy,” Ms Goldman said.
Asthma Australia’s Climate and Health Survey reveals 91 per cent of people with asthma are worried about the impacts of climate change.
Seventy-one per cent of people with asthma are concerned about increased air pollution as a climate change impact and 69 per cent are concerned about more frequent and severe natural disasters.
Asthma can both be caused and exacerbated by a range of climate change impacts, including bushfire smoke, increased pollen levels and thunderstorm asthma events, extreme heat and mould caused by heavy rainfall and flooding.
One quarter of people surveyed said climate change has already impacted their health. Among those people, breathing issues were the most common impact (49%) followed by poor mental health (39%) and hay fever (39%).
“We have already witnessed significant hospital admissions, deaths and unprecedented pressure on the healthcare system from thunderstorm asthma in 2016 and the 2019 bushfire crisis — it’s critical we get this strategy right the first time.”
Asthma Australia’s Climate and Health Survey confirms that Australians agree that the most important objective of the Strategy should be protecting the health and wellbeing of Australians against the impacts of climate change.
Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman is concerned the consultation paper for the Strategy fails to address how governments will manage the impacts of climate change on the health of Australians, particularly vulnerable populations. She is calling on the Federal Government to release a draft strategy to ensure the final version contains the actions needed to adequately protect health outcomes.
“Releasing a draft strategy will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on the areas absent from the consultation paper, including the actions that will be necessary to guide all Australian governments in responding to the immense challenges climate change presents to health and wellbeing,” Ms Goldman said.
“This is particularly important for the people at the greatest risk of climate change health damage, including people with asthma and other chronic conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people living in poor housing conditions,” she said.
More than half of respondents said protecting the health and wellbeing of Australians against the impacts of climate change is an important objective for the strategy, while half said ensuring different areas of government are working together to reduce these impacts is important. In contrast, just over a quarter of respondents said reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the healthcare system is an important objective.
The highest awareness is for injury and death from extreme events (55%) and asthma (53%). Half of respondents are aware that climate change can cause or exacerbate other respiratory conditions or mental health conditions.
There is, however, a very poor understanding of the potential for climate change to cause or worsen chronic disease outcomes including heart or kidney disease.
“Given the scale of the problem, taking the time to get this right will equip Australians and our healthcare system with the tools we need to confront the challenges that climate change presents”, Ms Goldman said.
The nationally representative survey involved 2,000 respondents, with 66% per cent living with asthma or another chronic health condition. Asthma Australia initiated the survey to understand what priorities Australians want the federal government to address in the National Health and Climate Strategy. View the survey report here.
For media interviews or data from Asthma Australia’s Climate and Health Survey, please contact Trinity Frederick, Strawberry Media on 0413 99 22 82 firstname.lastname@example.org