Health consequences of climate change not given importance: Tukuitonga

Pacific Community (SPC) director general Dr Colin Tukuitonga. Picture: FT FILE/SUPPLIED

HEALTH consequences of climate change are not given the importance that it needs.

Pacific Community (SPC) Director-General Dr Colin Tukuitonga made the comment in his public lecture at the University of the South Pacific last week.

In his presentation titled ‘The ‘hidden’ health danger of climate change’, Dr Tukuitonga said it was worth remembering that climate change affected the social, economic, environmental and cultural determinants of health.

“It is hard to imagine any aspect of life that is not affected by climate change and I call it the effect multiplier, which means that most of the health consequences that we see are not new or unexpected,” Dr Tukuitonga said.

He said people in the Pacific needed to be better prepared to protect their health.

“We need to be better prepared in respect of the basic things that we see, like access to water and sanitation.”

He said developing countries with weak health systems and infrastructure were most at risk and were least able to cope.

“For the communities, climate change uncertainties causes considerable anxiety for affected communities; concerns about their future, their lives and their livelihoods, and food security,” Dr Tukuitonga said.

For students, Dr Tukuitonga advised that an interest in mental health aspects of climate change would guarantee some assistance to the Pacific.

USP vice-chancellor and President Professor Rajesh Chandra said the topic of the lecture should be of great importance to people in the region.

“Climate change has many dimensions, and one of the most important and critical effects of climate change is on health and the loss of lives of people and communities, whether these come from increased rate of natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts, or water-borne disasters due to the scarcity of fresh water or water pollution, or the rapid increase of diseases with increased temperatures; and ultimately it is the people in the Pacific who will bear the brunt of the impact of climate change and they will also be the first to bear its consequences,” Professor Chandra said.

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