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Why climate change and unsustainable development are health hazards

Rising temperatures and heatwaves; drought and interruptions to food supply; rising infectious diseases; air pollution; and extreme weather events all have a very real impact on one’s physical and mental health.

Most recently, Australia has felt the impact of climate change in the shape of extreme weather events, unprecedented fires and devastating floods. Last summer’s bushfire smoke and ash made the links between health and climate change that much more real, personal and immediate. Evidence present at the recent royal commission into the bushfires found 455 people died from the bushfire smoke. While the immediate impacts are dramatic the enduring impacts develop and  evolve over time.

Climate change and unsustainable development are already having and will continue to have very real health consequences for many people. 

2020 will be defined as the year that physical and mental health led the agenda and headlines, from bushfire smoke, to COVID19 and economic recession. Do we need to broaden the frame and look at the whole picture, and add sustainability and  climate change to our health risk list?


The speakers

Joel Negin has been the Head of the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney since November 2015. He started at the School of Public Health in 2008 as a lecturer in the Masters of International Public Health program. 
Joel graduated from Harvard and Columbia Universities and then worked for a number of years in sub-Saharan Africa on health and development projects before moving to Australia. In those years, he lived and worked in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Kenya and collaborated with governments, the World Bank, academic institutions and United Nations partners.
Joel holds grants from the NHMRC and the Departmernt of Foreign Affairs and Trade focused on strengthening health systems in low- and middle-income countries. He maintains collaborations in Uganda, Vietnam, Indonesia and Fiji and maintains a passion for capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region.

Geoff has more than 25 years experience in epidemiological research, as well as environmental health policy and education. He has a joint appointment with the Sydney School of Public Health and the University Centre for Rural Health.

His research in environmental epidemiology specialises in the use of state of the art biostatistical and geographical information system techniques applied to routinely collected health data linked to small area level socio-demographic and environmental risk factors. The results of his research have been translated into environmental health and health services policy and his current work includes epidemiological studies into: the health effects of smoke from various sources including bushfires and wood heaters; the health effects of cliamte including extreme events such as heatwaves; the relationship between the built environment and health.

Jo Longman is a social science Research Fellow at the University Centre for Rural Health.  She works across a diverse range of rurally-focused qualitative and mixed methods research and evaluation projects. 

In 2017-19 she worked intensively on the Community Recovery After Flood study exploring the experience of flooding and measuring the mental health of the community following catastrophic flooding in the Northern Rivers in 2017.  She is currently leading a project funded by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the University of Sydney on the mental health impacts of climate change and developing resilience among rural disadvantaged communities.

Veronica Matthews is from the Quandamooka community, Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and a Wingara Mura Leadership Program Fellow at the University Centre for Rural Health. She is passionate about improving health and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through community-led research - key themes in the Centre for Research Excellence in Strengthening Systems for Indigenous Health Care Equity which she co-leads. She managed the development and implementation of the Community Recovery after Flood Project in partnership with local government and community agencies, to learn about mental health impacts of the 2017 flood disaster on various sectors of the community including marginalised population groups.

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