Bushfire Health Emergency Requires Government Actions to Strengthen Vulnerable Communities
Amid the catastrophic bushfire season ravaging Australia, the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) echoes calls from State and national medical representative bodies to acknowledge the “health emergency” facing Australian communities.
AMSA President, Daniel Zou, said today that many rural Australians - including farmers, volunteer firefighters, local populations, and the medical professionals delivering their care - are facing ongoing impacts on their health and wellbeing.
“AMSA believes it’s the responsibility of all governments to strengthen the adaptive capacity of Australia’s vulnerable communities to respond to extreme weather events,” Daniel said.
“Currently, there are insufficient resources to meet the healthcare needs of those affected.
“Central to this responsibility is equipping current and future rural health professionals with the resources, knowledge, and support to address the foreseeable health impacts related to the increase in climate-related weather events, and supporting others directly involved, including firefighters.
“A denialist approach to the impacts of climate change hinders both current and future action.”
The AMSA Rural Health Committee Chair, Sarah Clark, said that rural communities have felt the health impacts of climate change for some time.
“Many medical students are returning home this holiday season to families heavily affected by the ongoing financial and health impacts of fire and drought – and some students can’t even return home,” Sarah said.
“We strongly believe greater reactive and proactive assistance is required to address these impacts, whether this is supporting our volunteer firefighters or the communities they’re protecting.
“Medical workforce and resource shortages experienced in rural communities further compound these difficulties, making it harder to treat the mental and physical health of those involved in the bushfire evacuations.”
AMSA is the peak representative body for Australia’s 17,000 medical students, approximately one-third of whom are from a rural background. In December 2019, AMSA joined 18 health representative bodies in a joint statement declaring air pollution in NSW as a public health emergency (https://www.caha.org.au/air-pollution).
Henness Wong, Public Relations Officer
Isabelle Nehme, Vice President External - 0448 090 297
Published: 06 Jan 2020