13 April 2018
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) has joined
OraTaio: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council's Joint Call
for Action as it moves to reduce the impact that surgical practice
has on the environment.
Download full media release (PDF 38KB)
The Joint Call for Action is already supported by 18 of New
Zealand's most prestigious health professional organisations.
Dr Mark Smith, a Dunedin surgeon and OraTaiao Executive Board
member, said that RACS support for the Call to Action marks a
turning point in medical professional concern about climate change
and health. "Tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, midwives, public
health workers and medical students as well as the leaders of our
university health training programmes are now united in a shared
call for the government to rapidly transition to net zero carbon
The health sector must also be enabled to lead on both reducing
its own emissions and adapting to locked in changes," says Dr
Dr Cathy Ferguson, Vice President of RACS and a Wellington based
Otolaryngology Head and Neck surgeon, said that the work of
OraTaiao was crucially important to ensuring that a future where
healthy people live in a healthy climate is achieved.
"Climate change has emerged as one of the most significant threats
to health in the 21st century. Without urgent action, the
consequences of our changing climate will have a devastating impact
on health worldwide."
As described in a recent Royal Society of New Zealand report, the
ill-effects of climate change include the greater proliferation of
vector borne diseases, an increase in events such as flooding and
heatwaves, crop failures and salination of water supplies. Rising
sea levels and an increase in extreme weather events will be
particularly devastating for our Pacific neighbours.
"The health sector is a significant contributor to emissions in
both New Zealand and Australia (estimated at 5-10% of total
national emissions). As leaders in the operating theatre, surgeons
have a responsibility to limit the impact that the practice of
surgery has on the environment. Alongside supporting OraTaiao's
Call to Action, RACS is developing resources to help surgeons
reduce the carbon footprint of their own operating theatres."
Taking action on climate change can also reduce the burden of
ill-health from leading causes of death in New Zealand such as
cardiovascular disease, cancers, obesity and diabetes, with large
cost savings to the health sector.
The direct and indirect benefits from increased efficiencies in
the health sector and improved population health would help offset
any early costs of addressing climate change.
"RACS is committed to rapid and effective action on climate change
and recognises human-caused climate change as an increasingly
serious and urgent threat to health and health equity.
"It is important to demonstrate leadership in areas of emissions
reduction, and to promote effective and fair global action to
reduce emissions," said Dr Ferguson.