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  • 2023 Global Voices fellow

Preparing Australia's Health System for the effect of climate change

How can we ensure the health sector is ready for the effects of climate change?

  

Sri Devarajan, The University of Melbourne



Executive Summary

The healthcare sector in Australia presently contributes 7% of the nation's carbon emissions. Meanwhile, with the escalating impacts of climate change worldwide, healthcare systems, including Australia's, face mounting pressure from increased infectious diseases (Mora et al, 2022). This is exacerbated by the expansion of tropical weather farther south in Australia, widening the geographical range where hazards like mosquito-borne diseases can proliferate. It is expected that 58% of all human infections will increase exponentially due to climate change (Morea et al., 2022). As an example, treating the individual disease of the Ross River virus currently costs Australia an estimated $8.6 million a year (Yuen & Bielefeldt-Ohmann, 2021), and the CSIRO (2022) expects the cost of treating this virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses to rise. 


This proposal recommends establishing a robust surveillance system for early detection of infectious disease outbreaks in Australia. Such a system enables prompt identification and containment of diseases, curtailing their spread and mitigating community harm. This proactive stance not only saves lives but also conserves resources.


The estimated cost of implementing the recommendation is $15 million. The Department of Health will oversee the development and work in conjunction with states and territories for seamless implementation. The software MedISys will be used as it is seen to be effective in the European context and will only need to be retrofitted in the Australian context.  


The main risks associated with the implementation of this program relate to data privacy issues and false alarms. 


By implementing this strategy, the Australian healthcare system can better brace for the impacts of climate change This ensures the health of the Australian population in a global environment with greater infectious diseases.


Problem Identification

Context

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Policy Recommendation

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The views and opinions expressed by Global Voices Fellows do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation or its staff.

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