The impact of climate-related extreme events on public health workforce and infrastructure – how can we be better prepared?
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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report1 states with confidence that human induced climate change is occurring and that temperatures will continue to rise, even if CO2 emissions were to stop forthwith. The report also acknowledges that climate-related extreme events are increasing in frequency, severity and duration; particularly heavy rainfall events, intensification of cyclones, increases in tidal surge and fires. This poses the question: “Are we prepared?” This is question that public health authorities will need to face but, as health systems are increasingly stressed due to limited resources, increased demand and workforce shortages, being prepared becomes even more challenging. Extreme events place an additional burden on health systems already under pressure due to increased demand for health care services, and as public health resources are offset against the demands in the acute care sector. (For the purposes of this paper, public health services refer to those health and related services that seek to prevent disease and promote health.) The impact on often already overstretched public health services may not be recognised, and additional resourcing and support may not follow. As discussed later, recent Australian experiences indicate that the status quo will not be sufficient to both mount a successful public health response to climate-related extreme events and maintain a strong public health infrastructure.
This is the accepted version of the following article: Selvey, L. and Rutherford, S. and Dodds, J. and Dwyer, S. and Robinson, S. 2014. The impact of climate-related extreme events on public health workforce and infrastructure – how can we be better prepared? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 38 (3): pp. 208-210, which has been published in final form at http://doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.12219
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