Each state is responsible for developing a plan to address the health harms of climate change and as expected there are varying degrees of action. In SA the DEA committee has been involved in consultations and their submissions and suggestions are detailed here
The South Australian DEA committee has been actively involved in a consultation process, conducted by SA Health, to guide development of the new State Public Health Plan 2019-2024. This new Plan will replace SA’s inaugural State Public Health Plan, which was released in 2013 and which was designed to facilitate the initial implementation of the South Australian Public Health Act 2011.
The 2013 Plan had four key priorities for action:
The SA committee prepared a submission reviewing the 2013 Plan earlier this year. In this we welcomed the inclusion of ‘preparing for climate change’ as one of the Plan’s four strategic priorities, however we emphasised the need for climate change to be an overarching consideration relevant to all public health planning and decision-making in SA, rather than a standalone issue.
Following this first stage of consultation, SA Health developed a draft framework for the new State Public Health Plan 2019-2024. The SA committee has recently commented on this framework. The draft framework includes ‘protect against public and environmental health risks and adapt to climate change’ as one of its four priorities, and commendably calls for the application of a ‘climate change/sustainability lens’ to all new plans, policies and strategies.
However, as our submission highlights, the draft framework falls short of addressing a broad range of environmental health issues. In particular, the framework makes no mention of the urgent need for climate change mitigation, focusing simply on adaptation and failing to acknowledge the range of potential health co-benefits for priority issues such as obesity and mental health. Also lacking is discussion of the need and opportunity to develop a sustainable and climate-resilient health system, despite acknowledgement of the growing threats posed by climate change.
The SA committee intends to continue to support the development of the new SA State Public Health Plan 2019-2024, with a further consultation period expected later this year once a full draft is released.
Similar plans exist in other states, though consideration of health implications of climate change is highly variable. In Victoria the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 requires a new state public health and wellbeing plan every four years. The current Victorian public health and wellbeing plan 2015-2019 acknowledges that climate change presents serious environmental, economic and health challenges, and that climate change mitigation is necessary to protect health and wellbeing.
In contrast, the WA Department of Health released its first Interim State Public Health Plan in 2017, and unfortunately it makes no mention of climate change. It does however highlight the need for health-promoting environments, with this a clear opportunity to consider health impacts of climate change and the co-benefits of mitigation. The consultation period for the WA’s first Interim Plan closed in December, with the second Interim Plan due for publication in mid-2019.
Similarly, the NSW State Health Plan: Towards 2021 fails to mention climate change, and indeed makes no specific reference to the complex environmental determinants of health. Clearly there are numerous opportunities for improved consideration of environmental factors, particularly climate change, in health planning processes nationwide.
Any South Australian members interested in being involved in DEA’s contribution to the State Public Health Plan 2019-2024 consultation process please feel free to contact Katrina Lyne firstname.lastname@example.org. DEA members in other states are also encouraged to participate in local public health planning processes.