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Climate Change, Health and Pharmacy - The New Challenge - Commentary by Con Berbatis

Issue: Issue 81: April 2009
Author: Pharmedia News Reports

Editor's Comment:
A recent news item published online by the Far North Coaster E-Magazine caught my eye because it was linking lifestyle illness to climate change.
Research into the effects of climate change on health has been picked up by a number of researchers, including our own Con Berbatis who has had two reports published in i2P regarding this health issue.
Our summer of 2008-2009 was one of the most extreme on record and I think dispelled any doubts that something is indeed happening to our climate.
As pharmacists are in the frontline of primary health care, they need to have an understanding as to what problems they may be asked to deal with.
Con Berbatis will continue to report on his research into climate change for the benefit of i2P readers from time to time, but pharmacists are urged to come to grips with this particular aspect of medicine and how they may assist affected patients who are likely to be the entire Australian population.
People aged 60+ are most likely to be affected, and they just happen to be the fastest growing demographic of the Australian population.
Coming to grips with health issues from climate change will represent a continuing challenge for pharmacy.

Extract from Far North Coaster E-Magazine March 18, 2009

Climate change, chronic disease linked

Climate change may have much more to do with chronic disease than obesity does, said Professor Garry Egger at the first Australian Lifestyle Medicine Conference recently.Obesity is just the ‘canary in the mineshaft’, said the professor of Lifestyle Medicine and Applied Health Promotion at Southern Cross University and World Health Organisation advisor, who is one of the keynote speakers at the three-day conference.The conference is the first of its kind in the nation, designed to bring doctors and allied health professionals together to combat the huge rise in chronic diseases in Australia.“Through the modern environment, largely caused by economic growth, carbon resistance in the atmosphere and insulin resistance in the body (leading to obesity) are increased. Obesity is thus just the ‘canary in the mineshaft’, warning of other problems rather than being the main cause of disease on its own,” Professor Egger said. “Climate change and chronic disease are both related to the same cause - economic growth. The best way to think of it is that cars make people ‘fat’ as well as making the environment ‘fat’ (from carbon pollution). Cars are a big part of economic growth.“Modern humans living in the developed world are more sedentary, eat more denatured food and are subject to greater stress factors and environmental pollution than ever before, leading to increased inflammatory processes in the body due to an immune reaction to this ‘new’ environment.“Changes in patterns of health, from predominantly microbial-related infectious diseases to lifestyle-related chronic diseases (e.g. obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer etc) suggest the start of certain declining benefits from further investment in the growth model.“This is reflected in slowing improvements in some health indices such as mortality and infant mortality, and deterioration in others like prevalence of disability, obesity, and chronic diseases.“Both climate change and health can be seen as growing problems with a similar economic cause and potential economic and public health, rather than personal health, solutions.

“Some common approaches for dealing with both need to be on the public agenda and there should be greater involvement of health scientists in the current environmental and economic debates, in order to effectively deal with issues like obesity and chronic disease.”

Con Berbatis comments:

Egger – can climate change , obesity and chronic disease be mitigated by common approaches?

Professor Garry Egger has for years in Australia and for the WHO, advocated evidence-based, practical approaches for  preventing and managing obesity . He was one of 10 members of the NHMRC Working Party which produced the  ‘Clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults’ in 2003 which serves as the bible for Australian practitioners.1

On March 20 2009 at Manly, Dr Egger in the first Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association conference, said that chronic diseases had replaced infectious diseases as health priorities worldwide. Increased chronic diseases and obesity should be seen as consequences of economic development  analogous to  anthropogenic climate change which may be amenable to common approaches. 2 Premature cardiovascular disease and climate change for example, may be mitigated by regular walking and less individual use of  motor vehicles .

Dr Egger urged “ greater involvement of health scientists in the current environmental and economic debates”  in order to effectively deal with obesity , chronic disease and climate change.

In Australia , Phillip Woods , a lecturer at Griffiths University’s School of Pharmacy, has extensively reviewed this topic in a four-part series published in 2005 in the Australian Pharmacist.3-6

Con Berbatis in Curtin University’s School of Pharmacy, reviewed the implications for pharmacy in i2P after the releases in July and September 2008 of the official government-commissioned reports on climate change by the Australian National University’s Professor Ross Garnaut.7, 8

i2P will comment on the relevance to pharmacy of future reports on climate change and health.


Con Berbatis
School of Pharmacy
Curtin University of Technology of Western Australia.
30 March 2009.


At : . Accessed 29 March 2009.


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