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Climate change factors should be included on death certificates to show relation between environment and health: Experts

BANGKOK: Death certificates should include information about climate change factors, including severe heat and air pollution, so as to increase understanding of how the environment is adversely affecting health, Australian medical scientists have argued.

Research from doctors at the Australian National University (ANU) shows that there are major knowledge gaps when it comes to the influence of extreme weather on death and hospitalisation.

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Heat mortality, for example, is vastly underreported in Australia, their analysis found, and will increasingly be a major factor on regional health, as the planet continues to warm at an unprecedented rate.

“Recognising these environmental factors in our health and wellbeing is so tremendously important, said Dr Arnagretta Hunter from the ANU College of Health and Medicine when interviewed by CNA.

She is the co-author of a commentary regarding this issue, which was published in The Lancet Planetary Health on Thursday (May 21).

READ: Climate change supercharging extreme events, scientists say, as 'super cyclone' Amphan hits Bangladesh and India

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“What we know from climate science is that extreme weather events are occurring with increasing frequency. If we recognise the association between an extreme weather event and adverse health outcomes, we might take the frequency of those weather events more seriously.

“The analysis weve done shows that with increasing extreme temperature, we see a mortality influence which is quite significant,” she said.

Death certificates are just one mechanism to collect public health data, which can help governments set funding and health research priorities.

While climate change factors are not normally the primary cause of death, they can contribute in significant ways, and that data should be collected, Dr Hunter said.

The Allianz Tower, the Libeskind Tower and the Generali Tower are pictured amidst dense fog and smog in Milan, Italy, January 8, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo)

“We have the option of mentioning associated influencing factors, such as exposure to smoke or heat. All of those things influence why that person may have been in hospital or sick at that moment in time,” she said.

She added: “When a grandparent falls and fractures the hip and the cause of death is related to the fall, often we can reflect that the really extreme heat that wed had in the month or two beforehand had influenced the health and wellbeing of that person".

READ: Climate change turning Antarctica's snow green

While the research focuses on Australia, following a summer of record temperatures and the worst bushfire season in memory, the applications for updated and more detailed death certificates are global, she said.

Over the coming decades, that information could prove vital to help mitigaRead More – Source