Rapid climate change dangerous for health: Report

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Sydney, Apr 6: Changing climatic conditions will have disastrous health outcomes over the next ten years, particularly for children and the elderly, Australian doctors have warned. Improved strategies are required to reduce the impact of climate change on health, including a growing incidence of heat-related illness and infectious diseases, a report by Doctors for Environment Australia said.

The report, released on the eve of World Health Day and titled Climate Change Health Check 2020, was prepared for the Climate Institute and endorsed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Newcastle-based GP and co-author of the report Dr Graeme Horton said climate change presented a major challenge for the health system. ''Climate change is already a reality in our waiting rooms and surgeries, and is set to be key challenge for our health system over the coming decade,'' Dr Horton told the Sunday Mail.

''Clearly, climate change will place our health system under increasing stress, and as always the elderly, children and the vulnerable will be hardest hit,'' he added.

Dr Horton said the greatest impact would be felt in rural, regional, remote and indigenous communities.

Some of the impacts on health listed in the report included an increased incidence allergic disease, food poisoning and mosquito-transmitted diseases such as Dengue fever and Ross River virus.

There would also likely be increased trauma from extreme weather events such as drought and natural disasters, as well as a large increase in demand for aid from neighbouring countries, the report added.

Dr Grant Blashki of the University of Melbourne's Department of General Practice said planning for climate change should be part of every future deliberation on the healthcare needs of the community.

''Effective health strategies will require strong collaboration between government, health professionals and the community sector,'' he said.

Future medical workforce planning would need to take account of climate change impacts in areas such as preparing for disasters and supporting communities hit by long-term drought, Dr Blashki added.


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