Australia ill prepared for health impacts of extreme weather events

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Australia ill prepared for health impacts of extreme weather events

30/01/2013

The nation is poorly prepared to cope with health problems arising from extreme weather events, the AMA has warned.

In a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, which is examining trends in, and preparedness for, extreme weather events, the AMA highlights fundamental gaps in Australia’s ability to minimise and react to effects on health of extreme weather events, including:
•the lack of a nationally coordinated approach to managing the health effects of extreme weather events and climate change, particularly the absence of consistent framework that links health databases with real-time monitoring and assessment of weather, climate and geographic data;
•limited understanding of the scope and scale of health implications;
•little investment in preventive measures and long-term planning;
•a lack of supporting regulations, legislation, standards and codes; and
•a failure to sufficiently engage health professionals and the health sector in planning and preparation for extreme weather events.

AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, said today that the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events means it is vital to address major shortcomings in current arrangements.

“Extreme weather events in Australia are increasing in both severity and frequency.

“The health effects of these events are profound. They not only affect the health of individuals, but place a severe strain on health services.

“As we have seen recently, the health impacts of extreme weather events can reduce access to essential health services precisely when they are needed the most.

“In 2007, COAG identified the need for a national strategy specifically designed to drive and coordinate actions to reduce the health effects of climate change and extreme weather.

“However, no such strategy has been developed or implemented.

“Australia needs to develop a national coordinated strategy to ensure health services can be rapidly mobilised and effectively targeted during extreme weather events, and a fundamental gap in policy leadership needs to be overcome if we are to be better prepared for the health impacts of future weather events.”

The AMA submission is at https://ama.com.au/position-statement/submission-inquiry-recent-trends-and-preparedness-extreme-weather-events

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30 January 2013

CONTACT: Kirsty Waterford 02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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