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Nurses and midwives see daily the ways in which everyone’s health is inextricably linked to the health of the environment in which we live. It could be an older person who is admitted with environmental exacerbation of respiratory diseases, or a pregnant woman affected by the heat because her social housing doesn’t have adequate insulation or cooling.
Increasing incidences of heatwaves, bushfires, extreme weather events, drought and high levels of pollution are raising rates of human injury and directly and negatively affecting the key social determinants of health and damaging social and community structures. These negative health impacts in turn increase pressure on already overloaded health services.
Health services, as energy and resource intensive businesses and leading producers of waste and greenhouse gases, adversely affect the environment, contributing to global warming and climate change which potentially leads to poor health outcomes for the community. The health implications of climate change and environmental degradation are a central issue for nurses and midwives and many are making a significant contribution to environmentally sustainable healthcare.
In response to a delegates' resolution, passed at the 2012 Delegates Conference, which requested that ANMF (Vic Branch) become more involved in policy debate on climate change and environmental issues, ANMF launched the Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference in 2013. This is now an annual conference which covers a range of issues related to the links between health and the environment. In addition, ANMF (Vic Branch) has become more involved in policy debate on climate change and health and environment issues.
By promoting action on climate change and environmental sustainability, ANMF (Vic Branch) is supporting members to expand their knowledge, achieve their environmental goals and take positive and practical ideas back to their workplaces.
Victorian health services, often led and supported by nurses and midwives, are also acting to provide healthy practices and improve their environmental sustainability in recognition of the resulting environmental gains and reduction in cost. Recognising the economic and health benefits of action the Victorian Government is also adopting climate friendly policies and plans that mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Heath workers are trusted and respected within the community and have an opportunity to become leaders in reducing the adverse health and environmental impact of climate change and, at the same time, improve healthcare delivery and generating cost savings.
For more information on the campaign, or to share your stories on the impacts of climate change in health, or environmental sustainability initiatives in health, email Libby Muir ANMF (Vic Branch) CPD and Environmental Health Officer
Managing our healthcare waste
Did you know that sharps waste costs three times as much as general waste and is resource-intensive to process, often emitting dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change? Sorting our waste is a great way to help reduce the environmental impacts of healthcare.
Here’s a quick game to practice the best ways to dispose of healthcare waste that we encounter every day.