Consumer anxiety about climate health impacts shows need for effective government strategy

A large majority of those who participated in a recent Australia’s Health Panel survey have expressed concern at a range of climate change impacts on health and say the government is not doing enough to counter potential harms.

The Australia’s Health Panel survey, established by the Consumers Health Forum, found that 77 per cent of participants believed that climate change can have an adverse impact on their personal health and a further 16 per cent said it may have an impact.

The survey revealed a significant level of concern about a wide range of climate change impacts including water security and quality, smoke, extreme weather, food security, air pollution, population displacement and spread of infectious diseases.

The results reflect the views of 136 participants in the Australia’s Health Panel survey conducted last month, in the midst of widespread bushfires. 

 While 81 per cent panellists believed that the government was not doing enough to counter health impacts of climate change, almost as many, 79 per cent, said they were personally taking steps to reduce the impact of climate change on their own health.

The CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said the findings reinforce the heightened community sentiment about climate change and its effects on health triggered by this summer’s events and must spur the community and governments to recognise the need for more urgent and comprehensive action.

“CHF has joined and strongly supports the campaign by the Climate and Health Alliance in advocating for a national strategy on climate health and wellbeing.

“An effective national strategy must include a multi-portfolio response involving Federal and State governments and the development of a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-being. This will ensure a nationally coordinated approach to tackling the worsening health impacts of climate change, and that health service planning includes climate change preparedness to respond to the increasing demand for health services from extreme weather events, such as bushfires and heatwaves

“We also recommend that the Federal Government’s 10-Year National Prevention Strategy include measures to combat the impact of climate change on health.

“The bush fires have made the need for preventive steps to protect health much more obvious and pressing, whether it be more attention to respiratory needs of children or more targeted care for those with chronic conditions including mental health issues..

“The more important longer term development however is growing community recognition of the population-wide consequences of climate change in all its repercussions, such as threats to water and food security.

“As the Australia’s Health Panel survey has indicated, there is a community recognition of the widespread risks to health from a variety of causes triggered by climate change.

“The survey, though of a relatively small number of people, nonetheless reflects the views of people who have an active interest in health issues.

“An interesting finding is that while a clear majority believe climate change could impact health, the panellists are much less certain about whether the broader community recognises the impact.  Only 47 per cent thought the wider community believe in the health impact and 36 per cent thought that maybe they do.

“That underscores the need for more active community education on issues of climate and health,’’ Ms Wells said.

See survey report is at: https://chf.org.au/ahpclimatesurvey

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Media contact

Mark Metherell

Em.metherell@chf.org.au
T:  02 6273 5444 
M: 0429 111 986