Media release: Budget 2020 must tackle climate crisis say health organisations

05 May 2020 2:39 PM | Anonymous

Budget 2020 must tackle climate crisis say health organisations

3 May 2020

Leading NZ health professional organisations have written to the Government asking them to prioritise Budget 2020 funding for a just transition to a climate-resilient, sustainable and low-emissions economy.

The letter, led by OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council, was sent to the Minister and Associate Ministers of Finance on Sunday 3 May, and urges the Government to heed health advice that has for many years been warning of the serious health threat posed by the climate crisis.

Signatories to the letter represent more than 70,000 of the health professionals who have been on the frontline of responding to the pandemic. They include all the major health professional organisations representing nurses, clinical and public health doctors, public health workers and a wide range of other health professionals.

“Government spending must do triple duty – by equitably supporting economic wellbeing, addressing climate change, and improving people’s health,” said Dr Alex Macmillan, Co-convenor of OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council.

“An example is investing in transport infrastructure that makes it easy and safe for people to walk, bike and use a wheelchair to get around, which can create jobs, address climate change, increase physical exercise, reduce traffic crashes and lower healthcare costs. Investments in housing, energy and food systems can also create jobs, address climate change, reduce inequalities and bring health savings.”

“Doing these things fairly means they must be grounded in the Articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, designed in partnership with local communities, and ensure that benefits accrue to the groups currently most harmed by injustice,” says Dr Macmillan.

“We can’t go back to business-as-usual, because that’s been a disaster for social, economic and environmental wellbeing,” says Dr Macmillan. “Smart investment, on the other hand, can achieve win-win outcomes for people, prosperity and the planet.”

Quotes from signatory organisations

“The RACP sees action on climate change as part of our ongoing campaign to Make Health Equity the Norm for everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand – healthy houses, healthy jobs, and healthy tamariki and whānau,”says Dr Jeff Brown, Aotearoa New Zealand President, Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

“Alison Eddy, Chief Executive of the College of Midwives, recognises the urgent need for the Government to consider the next generation, who midwives welcome into the world every day. There is a fundamental obligation to support intergenerational justice to ensure the environment is safe and protected for our children.”

 ENDS

Media Spokesperson: Dr. Alexandra Macmillan, Mob. 021 322 625

Dr Alex Macmillan (co-convenor@orataiao.org.nz) is a Public Health Physician, Associate Professor of Environment and Health at the University of Otago, and Co-Convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

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Letter to the Listener 28 July 2017 in response to Fever Pitch (Listener 21 July 2017)

Catherine Woulfe’s thorough investigation of rheumatic fever brings to the surface a range of important questions not only about this cruel disease, but also wider issues about health policy. The Government’s bold initiative to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever as one of its 'Better Public Service' targets in 2012 certainly raised awareness of rheumatic fever for the general public as well as communities and families directly affected. But even when medical science and the public have a clearer understanding of the immediate causes of rheumatic fever, interventions like the $65m ‘sore throats matter’ still won’t stop the epidemic. 

Ramona Tiatia’s blunt description of the experience of affected families not only painted a picture of the impact on affected families and communities, it also highlighted the invidious choices our health funders face.  How much should we prioritise health spending between response to the urgent need of young people whose lives and potential can be devastated by the disease versus the expense of addressing the economic and social factors that underlie the reasons we have this epidemic at all?   

As several of the clinicians interviewed pointed out, it’s only when the poverty and over-crowded housing issues are addressed that we will make a real difference.

Rheumatic fever illustrates the contradictions in our health system identified in the recent American Commonwealth Fund report. Of the 11 countries the Fund monitors, the work our health professionals do is ranked among the highest. But our overall performance as a health system falls to the middle ranking because of our poor performance on access and equity. The Fund also notes that our per capita expenditure is among the cheapest. 

Failure to invest in real prevention - that is, poverty, housing, good nutrition etc. - will continue to drive conditions like rheumatic fever, whether the immediate cause is strep throat or skin sores, until we invest upstream.

Why not spend more on these conditions - the economic and social determinants of health? 

We all pay in the long run - the young people whose misery we tolerate and whose potential remains unfulfilled, the families whose sacrifices are unrewarded, and the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

Ngā mihi,
Warren Lindberg

CE Public Health Association of New Zealand

                                            

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