The new Climate and Health Cluster will foster collaborative research into health risks arising from climate change.

The new Climate and Health Cluster will foster collaborative research into health risks arising from climate change. Photo: Liese Coulter, CSIRO

Safeguarding future health in Australian cities

Reference: 11/36

Protecting urban Australians from a range of health risks associated with global warming is the focus of a new research cluster launched today in Cairns at the 2011 National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) Conference.

  • 6 April 2011

With $3.15m provided over three years through CSIRO’s Flagship Collaboration Fund, the Climate and Health Cluster will foster collaborative research into developing strategies to tackle climate change related health issues ranging from the spread of mosquito-borne diseases to heat stress, air pollution and food security.

Managed by CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation Flagship, the Cluster’s members are: The Australian National University, The University of Queensland, The University of Melbourne, University of Western Sydney, Curtin University, James Cook University, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and the international design and engineering firm, Arup.

Cluster Leader, Australian National University Professor Tony Capon said the Cluster will help the 90 per cent of Australians living in urban areas by providing new knowledge to enable urban planners and policymakers to effectively counter threats to human health in a changing climate.

“We are looking at new approaches to assessing health impacts to help policy makers make timely decisions in the face of unfamiliar stresses as the climate warms.

"We are looking at new approaches to assessing health impacts to help policy makers make timely decisions in the face of unfamiliar stresses as the climate warms."
Mr Allen Kearns, CSIRO's Climate Adaptation Flagship's Cities and Coasts Theme Leader

CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation Flagship’s Cities and Coasts Theme Leader, Allen Kearns, said  increased heat stress will need to be considered in city planning, including building shade and respite areas into urban designs.

“For example, better urban management options could save the lives of many children and elderly people among whom the health consequences of heat stress can be devastating,” Mr Kearns said.

Professor Capon said a  significant proportion of the Cluster’s funds will be  allocated to improving strategies for managing mosquito-borne diseases.

“It is important to understand how our adaptation to the changing climate will affect the distribution of mosquitoes that carry diseases like dengue fever.

“Widespread installation of rainwater tanks in cities may increase mosquito breeding grounds in some areas.”

CSIRO's Flagship Collaboration Fund  was established to enable the skills of the wider Australian and global research community to be applied to the major national challenges targeted by CSIRO's Flagship research program.

Media note:

Part of the Greenhouse 2011 Conference in Cairns from April 4-8, the combined events bring together research into climate science and the adaptation initiatives needed to deal with coming impacts.

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