What role do rural doctors have in helping their communities adapt to a climate-changing world?
Bell, EJ, What role do rural doctors have in helping their communities adapt to a climate-changing world?, Book of Abstracts: Sustaining Ecosystems, Supporting Health, 15-18 October 2012, Kunming, pp. 1-246. (2012) [Conference Extract]
Rural communities lie in some of the world’s worst climate change hotspots. They also often have fewer resources to conduct assessments of climate change health impacts, risks and adaptation options. What role could rural doctors have in helping their communities make such assessments? This presentation explores the results of a completed Australian project, funded by the Tasmanian Office of Climate Change, which has developed and tested an online community health impact, risk and adaptation assessment (HIRA) tool in three rural communities. It analyses the critical ways that local doctors contributed to the development of adaptation priorities for health services for these three communities, as part of a ‘translational research’ approach for community planning. That is, the HIRA tool used a set of steps, informed by the literature on knowledge translation, to help translate climate science into best practice community health adaptation priorities. We conclude that doctors will be critical to the future development of the HIRA tool, as we prepare for national and international trials. Climate science is currently developing predictions on smaller municipal-level ‘grids’, ostensibly for local policy decision-making. This is also in response to accumulating evidence that the now vast body of climate change research is being poorly translated into local community decision-making. However, our study suggests that, particularly in health, local area climate science predictions will only work if local stakeholders, most especially doctors, are involved in sophisticated adaptation assessment exercises that help to bring their local knowledge to bear on those scientific projections.