#NoTimeForGames: A National Children's Health Campaign 

The #NoTimeForGames campaign, an initiative of Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA), highlighted the effects of climate change on children’s health. It called upon our elected leaders to take action, recognising that if we fail to act now on climate change, adaptation may not be possible and many societies will struggle to survive. 

"Together we can and must tackle climate change for the sake of our children, while there is still time."         Professor Fiona Stanley, child health expert and former Australian of the Year   

Key supporters

The campaign ran between 2015 and 2019, and comprised the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Royal Australian College of Physicians, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, the Australian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians, the Australian College of Emergency Medicine, the Australian Medical Students Association and other organisations representing over 10,000 doctors and medical students nationwide. 

Major supporters of the campaign also included Australian of the Year (2003) Prof Fiona Stanley, Senior Australian of the Year (2019) Dr Suezanne Packer, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient for ICAN Prof Tilman Ruff, Prof David Isaacs, Nobel Prize Laureate Prof Peter Doherty, as well as, distinguished rural GP Dr Amanda Bethell.  

More than 2500 health professionals across Australia signed a pledge calling for: 

  •  An urgent, proactive and effective whole of government approach to climate mitigation. 
  • Strengthening our primary, emergency, rural and mental health services to increasingly be able to respond to children affected by climate change (e.g. during heatwaves and extreme weather events). 
  • Greening our health care systems, in which health professionals are well placed to be a driving force to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste. 
  • Considering divestment as an effective tool for diverting funds away from fossil fuel-related activities. 

#NoTimeForGames goes to Parliament 

A delegation of doctors and medical practitioners delivered in May 2019 the No Time For Games pledges to Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt and leaders on all sides of politics in the lead up to the 2019 federal election. 

The campaign culminated in a successful parliamentary motion in September 2019, presented by Zali Steggall OAM MP and recognised human-induced climate change as one of the biggest and most urgent health threats to children. 

It also called on the government to decarbonise by 2050 to reduce the intensity and occurrence of extreme weather events. 

The motion, which cited the #NoTimeForGames campaign, acknowledged the health impacts of climate change, particularly: 

  • Heat related illnesses and death due to increased temperatures 
  • Respiratory diseases and death related to burning fossil fuels 
  • Deadly hypoallergenic conditions like thunderstorm asthma 
Zali Steggall also created her own petition as a result of the No Time for Games campaign. 

Subsequently the Parliamentary Friends for Climate Action met for the first time to debate and speak on the health impacts of climate change. The group includes members from all sides of politics. 

"Rural families often have to cope with health and financial problems from weather events like flood, drought, heat, and dust. We need to urgently tackle climate change to protect the health and wellbeing of our children." 
Dr Amanda Bethell, Rural practitioner and RACGP GP of the Year 2017

How climate change affects children 

 Climate change threatens the very foundations of children’s health – access to clean air, water, fresh food and a safe environment. 

The damage caused by climate change is impacting our control of infectious diseases and threatens the social and economic stability of our children. Currently, over 80% of global disease due to climate change impacts children, predominantly in developing countries. 

Those least responsible and least able to care for themselves are living the consequences of our climate inaction. 

Children are not simply small adults. They are biologically and psychologically more vulnerable than adults to the physical trauma, psycho-social stress, nutritional deprivation, infectious agents, and heat waves associated with climate change impacts. 

Mental and emotional impacts on children from climate change include increased levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders and substance abuse. 

Trauma and adversity in early life have long term effects on the development and function of all organ systems, increasing the risk of many chronic diseases in later life and shorten life expectancy. 

We know what steps we need to take to stop climate change and to create a healthy environment for our children and our planet. 

We need to drastically reduce our dependence on coal, oil and gas. The burning of fossil fuels is the number one cause of climate change and is a major contributor to air pollution. Burning fewer fossil fuels will lead to a healthier climate and immediately reduce the impacts of air pollution on children's health, such as asthma. 

Children deserve every opportunity to reach their full potential. Embracing climate solutions and transitioning to clean, renewable energy will prevent disease and help children live healthy and happy lives. 

"Our children have the most lose through the impact of climate change on their health, their environment and their future."
Professor Susan Prescott, paediatrician, University of Western Australia  

It's a climate emergency 

 In late 2019, the Australian Medical Association declared climate change a health emergency, following the example of the American Medical Association, the British Medical Association, and Doctors for the Environment Australia, among others. 

A short history of #NoTimeForGames 

"Take the politics out of climate change and put health back into it.” 
 Dr Ingo Weber, #NoTimeForGames campaign coordinator

The #NoTimeForGames campaign was coordinated by Dr Ingo Weber. 

Dr Weber is a qualified rural GP who took up anaesthetics while overseas and now works as a full-time anaesthetist at the Lyell McEwin Hospital and lectures at both South Australian medical schools on the health impacts of climate change. 

Dr Weber is a longstanding committee member of DEA, a member of the Australian Medical Association, and was the medical lead in the successful Concentrated Solar Thermal campaign for Port Augusta.

The #NoTimeForGames campaign was based on a 2015 report of the same name which was co-authored by then DEA Honorary Secretary, Emeritus Professor David Shearman AM and Dr Sallie Forrest, with a foreword from paediatrician, former Australian of the Year and DEA scientific member, Professor Fiona Stanley. A No Time For Games Summary Report Update was completed in 2018.  

Dr Weber states:

 “The idea for me in rolling out this campaign, was to take the politics out of climate change and put health back into it, making health the central issue. 

I care especially about children’s health in a changing climate, as it is children, who have contributed least to global heating and are least able to do anything about it, who will pay the biggest price with their health. They are far more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and stand most to lose in terms of life-years lost. 

By focusing on children’s health, we bring the future to the present – a powerful reminder that we must act on climate change now. 

It is my hope that through this campaign, the health care sector: doctors, students, nurses and allied health professionals, will unite to speak up with one voice on the health impacts of climate change for those who do not have a voice”. 

For further information go to: notimeforgames.dea.org.au or write to Dr Ingo Weber at admin@dea.org.au

For more information about children's health and climate change: 

To further support health and environment campaigns, join Doctors for the Environment Australia 

Organisational and key supporters 

 The #NoTimeForGames pledge was endorsed by:
  •  Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), with particular endorsement by its Paediatric and Child Health Division 
  • Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) 
  • Australian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians (ACSEP) 
  • Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM) 
  • Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) 
  • Medical Association for the Prevention of War (Australia) (MAPW) 
  • Australian Medical Students' Association 
  • Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) 
  • Australian Medical Association, South Australia 
  • Doctors Reform Society 
  • Women's Medical Society (WMS) 
  • Professor Fiona Stanley (Former Australian of the Year) 
  • Professor Susan Prescott (Paediatrician) 
  • Dr Amanda Bethell (Rural Practitioner and RACGP GP of the Year 2017) 
  • Dr Sue Packer OA (Senior Australian of the Year 2019, Paediatrician) 
  • Associate Professor Tilman Ruff, Nossal Institute for Global Health; founding Australian and International Chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) – Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2017 
  • Professor David Isaacs, Clinical Professor Paediatric and Child Health, Children's Hospital, Westmead 
  • Noble Laureate Professor Peter Doherty 
  • Professor Kerryn Phelps  

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