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Archive for October, 2019

“The earth is sick. It has a temperature. We know the diagnosis. It needs treatment. If it is not treated it will become sicker – its temperature will go on increasing until it dies. We may have reached a tipping point. Urgent action is needed.”

Following the global launch of the Manifesto to Secure a Healthy Planet for All, Prof. Jo Nurse gave this warning at a recent event in Wessex to support local councils in taking emergency action on climate change.

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With so many local authorities declaring a climate emergency, Prof Nurse collaborated with the University of Winchester and the Wessex Global Health Network to provide an afternoon of speakers and workshops designed to assist councils in taking climate action.

Prof Joy Carter, Vice-Chancellor, was well placed to give the opening address given that Winchester is the University for Sustainability and Social Justice and has itself declared a climate emergency. Dame Yvonne Moores, former Chief Nursing Officer, chaired the event which had over 60 attendees ranging from Public Health consultants to emergency planning officers, local Councillors and NHS representatives.

The scale of the challenge facing local government was illustrated by speakers from Hampshire County Council, Winchester District and from the new unitary authority of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. These were followed by presentations giving practical advice on the steps that authorities can take including 50 actions from Friends of the Earth and Ashden’s co-benefits toolkit.

The afternoon included workshops designed to highlight the key issues and then bring the discussion onto actions to prevent and mitigate climate change.

As a Public Health Registrar, currently working in global health, I found it inspiring to see the enthusiasm and commitment of my local authority colleagues despite the many challenges and barriers to tackling climate change. The scale of the emergency is daunting, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. Nevertheless, local areas are coming up with innovative solutions and there is a strong will to engage with the public, particularly with influential grassroots organisations and with young people.

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In the workshop that I attended, there was a focus on the role of behaviour change; local authorities were asking for support from national experts in the social marketing of climate change actions. I was struck that the Public Health community has a strong track record in framing messages in a way that promotes behaviour change and, therefore, this is one area where our profession can really support council colleagues.

Going forward in Wessex, it is hoped that stronger networks will facilitate cross-sector action by allowing the skills and expertise of many different disciplines to come together; Public Health professionals with their competencies in engagement, influencing and behaviour change should be key players in the response to the climate emergency.

Written by Rebecca Wilkinson, Public Health Registrar on placement with the Wessex Global Health Network

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