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Australia makes history with new climate and health strategy

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In an Australian first, the National Climate and Health Strategy was launched at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates.

The Strategy confronts the real and immediate threat climate change has on the health and well-being of all Australians and our healthcare system.

“Healthcare systems are impacted by climate change as more frequent and extreme weather events lead to more emergency room visits, hospitalisations and deaths,” said Kylie Woolcock, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA). “They are also a significant contributor to the emissions accelerating climate change.”

The strategy puts forth four key objectives focused on health system resilience, decarbonisation within the healthcare sector, international collaboration and health in all policies.

“These core objectives will help to lay the foundations of a strong and resilient healthcare system that can deliver the care that people and communities need as we accept the realities of a changing climate,” Woolcock stated.

In terms of building resilience, the strategy will support extensive climate risk assessments across healthcare facilities to identify vulnerabilities, as well as boost preparedness for climate-related emergencies via disaster contingency planning, with an emphasis on primary care facilities as frontline responders.

Regarding emissions reduction, the plan recognises the current lack of comprehensive emissions reporting across healthcare and examines the need to take a whole-of-supply-chain approach towards driving decarbonisation.

“By using a ‘health in all policies’ perspective, the Strategy is a step in the right direction towards breaking down the silos between sectors, in order to collectively reduce and lessen the impact of climate change on our health and wellbeing,” Woolcock explained.

Woolcock noted AHHA is already collaborating with groups like the International Hospital Federation’s Geneva Sustainability Centre to foster global knowledge exchange on creating sustainable health systems resilient to climate shocks.

“We again congratulate the Department on the release of the Strategy, and look forward to its operationalisation over the coming years,” she said.

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