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What impact is climate change having on our health and health system?

20 Sep 2022

Join us for the latest episode of Taking care: The inextricable link between climate change and healthcare.

Key points
  • Taking care host Tash Miles is joined by Dr Simon Quilty, Dr Ying Gu and Professor Sharon Friel for a conversation about the impacts of climate change on our health and health systems.
  • Guests discuss the current impacts at a personal and community level and the structural changes needed to address the inequities exacerbated by climate change such as housing inequality.
  • Dr Gu also reflects on the concerns she has for women now and in the future without urgent change.

As the guests in this episode stress, the link between climate change and our health and access to safe healthcare is undisputable. But what is the path forward?

Northern Territory specialist physician, Dr Simon Quilty, Melbourne obstetrician and gynaecologist and a member of Doctors for the Environment, Dr Ying Gu, and Canberra local and Professor of Health Equity and Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Governance at the Australian National University, Professor Sharon Friel, passionately detail their concerns, observations and what action will have a meaningful impact.

Dr Simon Quilty has been living and working in the top end for more than two decades. To him, there’s an obvious solution.

‘If Australia is serious about closing the health and social and social gaps that exist in indigenous communities the only thing that needs to be looked at – is housing,’ Dr Quilty said.

He details the impact of inefficient energy supply to the region which is making it near impossible to live healthy lives in areas that frequently have days over 40 degrees.

‘First Nations cultures have been shaped by climate change in the past and maybe as a society Australia will be well placed to start talking to First Nations people about how to live within an ecosystem rather than battling against it.’

Professor Sharon Friel is also concerned about the social inequalities that we’ve seen recently by the NSW flooding. For example, the experiences by those in houses to those living in caravan parks with no other options for safer housing.

‘We’ve got to do something about adaptation right now, and at the same time, we have to address the structural drivers of ongoing climate change – it’s not an either/or – we need both,’ Professor Friel said.

On a personal and patient level, Dr Ying Gu is already seeing the impact of the changing climate on those in her care. She says pollution entering the body, such as a result of bushfires and infections that spread from raising temperatures, is already hurting pregnant women.

‘Currently there is strong epidemiology evidence that supports that climate change reduces fertility and first pregnancy outcome such as reduced fertility and live term birth and links with increased preterm births and low birth weight.’

‘We need to engage everyone ... because ultimately health affects all of us,’ Dr Gu said.

Listen to the full episode here.

Useful links

Did you know?

The Taking care podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare. Download and listen to the latest Taking care episode today

Ahpra releases a new episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking Care’ in your podcast player.

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Page reviewed 20/09/2022