Environmental and climate change, accelerated by human activities, is degrading the quality of air, soil, water and food, and posing a significant threat to human health. More frequent and intense extreme weather events are directly harming human health and impairing delivery of healthcare by disrupting emergency medical and hospital services and medical supply chains. Rising sea levels are disrupting water and food resources, local economies and infrastructure in coastal Australia and its neighbours, increasing migration and posing health security risks. Increasing temperatures and extreme weather are affecting mental health and wellbeing, food systems, occupational health and labour productivity. Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 are increasing globally and impacting severely on human health. Environmental change drives disease transmission dynamics and is influenced by urbanisation, climate change and extreme weather, changes in farming practices, deforestation and biodiversity loss. Unevenly distributed in Australia, these risks create new inequities and exacerbate existing ones between urban and rural populations, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians.
While environmental and climate change pose great challenges to health, there is great potential for well-targeted mitigation and adaptation policies to reduce environmental impacts, protect and improve human health, build health system and community resilience, and progress towards a healthier, fairer and more sustainable world. This involves urban, rural and remote health interventions that strengthen the resilience of communities, and the health sector in particular, to environmental change.
Respectful integration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and Western concepts of health and related knowledge systems is essential to this effort, recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of health holistically encompass connection to culture, family, language, community, and Country.
The objective of the HEAL 2022 Conference is to provide an inspirational forum for knowledge transfer, scientific debate, and community-wide conversations about research and policy priority setting on human health, climate and environmental change solutions in Australia.
Expected outcomes include a transformational vision statement and policy briefing on human health and environmental change research, enhanced community engagement, articles to be published as special issue in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and collaborative and co-designed research projects and funding applications.
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