The National Rural Health Alliance has called on the federal government to take tangible action on climate change, saying inaction has serious consequences for rural health.
In a position paper released on Monday, the NRHA expressed concern that rural, regional and remote communities would bear the brunt of health effects caused by extreme weather events, food security threats, and vector-borne diseases.
NRHA CEO Gabrielle O’Kane said: ‘The paper provides a timely perspective on the trauma and other health impacts rural people experience from the effects of climate change, as well as the cost to society.’
‘Climate change is a significant threat to health, and the adverse health risks are generally greater in rural, regional and remote communities where people are already at a disadvantage from unequal access to health care and are more susceptible to poor health outcomes.’
The NRHA is a peak body representing 44 national organisations in the rural health and wellbeing sector, including health practitioners, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and the CWA.
‘The Alliance is calling for the inclusion of climate-driven impacts on rural health in all future health planning, as well as research and transition plans to help communities mitigate the short and long-term health effects of climate change,’ Ms O’Kane said.
‘The Alliance supports government action against the National Strategy for Climate, Health and Well-Being and recommends measures to address three rural-specific risks: extreme weather events; impacts on agricultural output and food security; and debilitating insect-borne diseases.’
The position paper noted the ongoing mental health impacts of drought, bushfires and floods and highlighted that remoteness compounds these impacts by putting services further out of reach.
The paper also drew attention to the economic impacts of changing weather, warning that Australia’s agricultural competitiveness and food security advantages could be lost if food production becomes harder, causing prices to rise.