The Beagle Editor, Across the country doctors are uniting to see acknowledgement of climate change as the greatest threat to human health. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Medical Association are urging us to “advocate for policies to protect human health from risks of climate change at local, state, national and international government levels”. It’s critical to highlight health impacts at a local government level. These are detailed in reports published by the Doctors for the Environment, Medical Journal of Australia and the Journal of Australian General Practice. The reports have found that as global temperatures continue to rise; we will see more extreme and frequent heatwaves. They’re silent killers but are linked to death and disability especially in vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, the mentally unwell, pregnant women and outdoor workers. Heatwaves reduce school and academic performance, affect work productivity and increase violence. The increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as droughts, unseasonal and severe bushfires, floods and cyclones creates direct damage to human health, affecting livelihoods and increasing psychological distress. A study of farmers in NSW from 1970-2007 found an increased suicide rate by 15% as droughts worsen. Water insecurity is a reality, for many rural NSW towns, today. During floods or at severe low levels of storage, water can become unsafe due to contamination, leading to outbreaks of waterborne diseases. This is happening now. These health outcomes can no longer be someone else's problem. Each and every one of us has the opportunity to drive the change in our families, streets, communities and shires. Local government has a critical role to play in mitigation, adaptation and protection of our communities. Acting now on the climate emergency may bring about the biggest health achievements of our time. Low-carbon communities are fitter, more connected, healthier and happier. I encourage residents to take the time to see the benefits of a declaration of climate emergency and join the conversation. Dr Michelle Hamrosi MBBS FRACGP DCH IBCLC
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