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IPCC report signals need to plan for health effects of climate change

14 Apr 2014

AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, said today that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underlines the need for governments to plan to address the impacts of climate change on health.

Professor Dobb said the report sends a strong message that concerted action is needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.

“The AMA has long highlighted the likely adverse health effects of climate change from increased emissions,” Professor Dobb said.

“Human health will be affected by extreme events such as floods, fires and heatwaves, increases and changes in vector-borne diseases such as malaria, increases in water contamination by bacteria, higher incidence of food-borne illnesses, and mental health problems associated with events such as droughts, floods, and fires.

“Australia has experienced a high number of damaging extreme weather events such as cyclones, bushfires and floods in recent years, with many deaths and lasting effects on human health, both physical and mental.

“We need to act now to reduce both the human and economic costs of climate change on health.

“The AMA believes the Australian Government must take strong and effective strategic action to deal with the health impacts of climate change, including the development of a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change.

“We must be prepared to respond to the health impacts of gradual climate change, extreme events, and to people’s medium- and long-term recovery needs.”

The AMA recommends that a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change should incorporate:

  • localised disaster management plans for specific geographical regions that model potential adverse health outcomes in those areas and incorporate appropriate localised health and medical response measures, including for people who have been evacuated or relocated, temporarily or permanently,
  • strong and active communication links between hospitals, major medical centres and local weather forecasters and emergency response agencies (in at-risk locations) to maximise timely responses and efficient use of health resources in extreme weather events;
  • measures targeted to the needs of certain vulnerable population groups (older Australians, children, Indigenous communities, members of remote communities);
  • measures to address health and medical workforce needs in rural and remote communities, particularly in mental health services;
  • enhanced awareness among doctors and health professionals of the potential consequences on mental health of extreme weather events and disasters;
  • development of effective interventions to address mental health issues arising from extreme events, including those involving mass casualties and from longer-term changes, including drought;
  • programs to improve the education and awareness of health professionals about the links between health and climate change, and their understanding of the risks of new vector-borne diseases and likely health impacts;
  • measures to prevent exotic disease vectors from becoming established in Australia and nationally coordinated surveillance for dangerous arboviruses, with public education programs promoting mosquito avoidance and measures to prevent mosquito/arthropod breeding; and
  • preparedness to deal with the temporary and permanent dislocation of people due to climate-related physical events and economic conditions.

The AMA Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health is available at


14 April 2014


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Published: 14 Apr 2014