Aust J Rural Health 2018 Feb 17;26(1):20-25. Epub 2017 Aug 17.
School of Medicine Sydney, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Objective: To determine health service managers' (HSMs) recommendations on strengthening the health service response to climate change.
Design: Self-administered survey in paper or electronic format.
Setting: Rural south-west of New South Wales.
Participants: Health service managers working in rural remote metropolitan areas 3-7.
Main Outcome Measures: Proportion of respondents identifying preferred strategies for preparation of rural health services for climate change.
Results: There were 43 participants (53% response rate). Most respondents agreed that there is scepticism regarding climate change among health professionals (70%, n = 30) and community members (72%, n = 31). Over 90% thought that climate change would impact the health of rural populations in the future with regard to heat-related illnesses, mental health, skin cancer and water security. Health professionals and government were identified as having key leadership roles on climate change and health in rural communities. Over 90% of the respondents believed that staff and community in local health districts (LHDs) should be educated about the health impacts of climate change. Public health education facilitated by State or Federal Government was the preferred method of educating community members, and education facilitated by the LHD was the preferred method for educating health professionals.
Conclusions: Health service managers hold important health leadership roles within rural communities and their health services. The study highlights the scepticism towards climate change among health professionals and community members in rural Australia. It identifies the important role of rural health services in education and advocacy on the health impacts of climate change and identifies recommended methods of public health education for community members and health professionals.