Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Useful articles on co-benefits of addressing climate change, obesity and other public health issues

Classified as: very useful research

If you haven't already seen it, the following article is very relevant for those working in health promotion and is of general interest. As far as I know it's not available publicly,  but if you have access to a library you should be able to order a copy. I've included the abstract below.

Melanie Lowe ‘Obesity and climate change mitigation in Australia: overview and analysis of policies with co-benefits’ , Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health [Aust N Z J Public Health], ISSN: 1753-6405, 2014 Feb; Vol. 38 (1), pp. 19-24; Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; PMID: 24494940


Objective: To provide an overview of the shared structural causes of obesity and climate  change, and analyse policies that could be implemented in Australia to both equitably reduce obesity rates and contribute to mitigating climate change. 

Methods: Informed by the political economy of health theoretical framework, a review was conducted of the literature on the shared causes of, and solutions to, obesity and climate change. Policies with potential co-benefits for climate change and obesity were then analysed based upon their feasibility and capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and equitably  reduce obesity rates in Australia.

Results: Policies with potential co-benefits fit within three broad categories: those to replace  car use with low-emissions, active modes of transport; those to improve diets and reduce  emissions from the food system; and macro-level economic policies to reduce the over-consumption of food and fossil fuel energy.

Conclusion: Given the complex causes of both problems, it is argued that a full spectrum of complementary strategies across different sectors should be utilised.

Implications: Such an approach would have significant public health, social and environmental benefits.

Key words: obesity, climate change, political economy of health, policy analysis, co-benefits

People working in PCP health promotion are likely to be aware of this I should think. I had seen it myself before, but came across it again recently and thought how practically useful it is, for example for those who are funded to work on obesity related projects but would also like to have an environmental focus in their work. 

If you have been able to make use of this evidence in your work, I'd be really interested to hear about it. You can respond in the comments below or by contacting me direct on my email (see side panel).

Here's another relevant article, from Canada. I'll probably come across more as I work through the review I'm doing, so it may be worth checking back if you are interested in this topic.

Cheng JJ  & Berry P ‘Health co-benefits and risks of public health adaptation strategies to climate change: a review of current literature’  International Journal Of Public Health [Int J Public Health] 2013 Apr; Vol. 58 (2), pp. 305-11.


Objectives: Many public health adaptation strategies have been identified in response to climate change. This report reviews current literature on health co-benefits and risks of these strategies to gain a better understanding of how they may affect health.

Methods: A literature review was conducted electronically using English language literature from January 2000 to March 2012. Of 812 articles identified, 22 peer-reviewed articles that directly addressed health co-benefits or risks of adaptation were included in the review.
Results: The co-benefits and risks identified in the literature most commonly relate to improvements in health associated with adaptation actions that affect social capital and urban design. Health co-benefits of improvements in social capital have positive influences on mental health, independently of other determinants. Risks included reinforcing existing misconceptions regarding health. Health co-benefits of urban design strategies included reduced obesity, cardiovascular disease and improved mental health through increased physical activity, cooling spaces (e.g., shaded areas), and social connectivity. Risks included pollen allergies with increased urban green space, and adverse health effects from heat events through the use of air conditioning.
Conclusions: Due to the current limited understanding of the full impacts of the wide range of existing climate change adaptation strategies, further research should focus on both unintended positive and negative consequences of public health adaptation.
A more policy-related discussion with a focus on non-communicable disease. There is a useful grid of expected co-benefits in the article:

Friel S, Bowen K, Campbell-Lendrum D, Frumkin H, McMichael AJ and  Rasanathan K ‘Climate change, noncommunicable diseases, and development: the relationships and common policy opportunities’ Annual Review Of Public Health [Annu Rev Public Health] 2011; Vol. 32, pp. 133-47


The rapid growth in noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including injury and poor mental health, in low- and middle-income countries and the widening social gradients in NCDs within most countries worldwide pose major challenges to health and social systems and to development more generally. As Earth's surface temperature rises, a consequence of human-induced climate change, incidences of severe heat waves, droughts, storms, and floods will increase and become more severe. These changes will bring heightened risks to human survival and will likely exacerbate the incidence of some NCDs, including cardiovascular disease, some cancers, respiratory health, mental disorders, injuries, and malnutrition. These two great and urgent contemporary human challenges-to improve global health, especially the control of NCDs, and to protect people from the effects of climate change-would benefit from alignment of their policy agendas, offering synergistic opportunities to improve population and planetary health. Well-designed climate change policy can reduce the incidence of major NCDs in local populations.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Taking a stand against the glorification of war

Classified as: reflections, feminist theory

I haven't been writing much on the blog lately, but I want to take a stand on an issue that's bothering me a lot: the glorification of war in the lead-up to Anzac Day this year.

I have nothing against people who want to honour the dead, but what we are seeing is glorification of war, and it seems almost ubiquitous. Perhaps I am more aware of it than many because my tram or bike commute takes me past the Shrine of Remembrance, but the ABC is also full of it.

There seems to be no place for those who question war. The only event which questions it that I'm aware of is a reading of The One Day of the Year on 24 April, by the Independent Theatre in Adelaide (which my niece is acting in). Other than that I'm just seeing unquestioning glorification.

So this is to register my protest. Armed violence and war are not simply 'natural' to human beings and they are not the best or only way to resolve conflict. Many of my parents' generation (who were involved in World War Two) seemed to think that the lesson from war was that we should try to seek peace, but that lesson seems to have been lost in Australia.

Tomorrow I will try to put up some broader historical information about violent conflict from the readings I have been doing about patriarchy.

Update 20 April 2015
One of the necessary conditions for the glorification of war is the normalisation of war: the acceptance that war is a normal part of human existence and history. In addition, there is usually an assumption that 'our' side was justified in going into the war because the other side 'started' it, that is, that violence is the only, or at least the acceptable, response to violence.

In the case of the Anzac legend, the second assumption isn't part of the legend. There doesn't seem to be much concern or belief about whether the the First World War was justified (unlike say, the Second World War) and the Anzac battle at Gallipoli is widely accepted to have been a misguided battle. Rather, the glorification rests on a belief that Australia 'proved itself' as a nation by proving that it could fight in a war. Thus war is seen as not only normal, but heroic, regardless of cause or justification.

Contrary to this is the evidence provided by some archeologists and historians, including feminist historians, that war is not normal in a longer view.^ There is evidence that at certain times and places in history, such as the Neolithic era in the fertile parts of central Asia and Southern Europe, or in Minoan Crete, there were societies that were relatively peaceful and egalitarian, and did not make war.

The very first "pre-requisite" for health mentioned in the Ottawa Charter is peace, yet I don't often seem to hear health promoters speaking out on this issue. Indeed health promotion students are sometimes taught that the Charter is an 'utopian' document rather than something we can realistically aspire towards. Yet how much of that is because of this belief - not justified by history - that war is inevitable and normal? I would like to see more health promoters engaging with this question.

^ Key references
Riane Eisler The chalice and the blade : our history, our future 1987
Gerda Lerner The creation of patriarchy 1986

Additional works of interest:
Henryd Delcore 'New Reflections on Old Questions in the Anthropology of Gender' Reviews in Anthropology 36(2) 2007 (Discussion of some southeast Asian societies)
Cheryl Johnson-Odim 'Actions louder than words' in Sue Morgan (ed) The feminist history reader 2006 (first published in Pierson and Chaudhuri Nation, Empire, Colony 1998) (Discussion of some African societies)
Iam Armit 'Violence and society in the deep human past' British Journal of Criminology 51(3) 2011 (Discussion of early Europe)
Ian Hodder 'Women and Men at Çatalhöyük' Scientific American 290 (1) 2004 (Popular article on recent excavations at Çatalhöyük, post Lerner. Questions ubiquity of goddess worship as suggested by Lerner and Eisler, but acknowledges that neolithic society at Çatalhöyük appears to have been relatively egalitarian and peaceful)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Greetings for 2015 from the researcher as a tortoise!

Classified as: project update, reflections, discourse, beautiful world

Giant tortoise - from Wikipedia
Greetings to all research participants and any other interested readers for 2015. I hope you had a great break and celebrated the summer solstice.

I haven't updated the blog for some time because I'm making slow progress at present and, yep, I did have a bit of a holiday.

Back at work now. Research things I have been doing:
  • drafting a report to research participants on project findings and implications, for feedback
  • rewriting an article about climate change denial (been doing this forever so it seems)
  • writing a short report about PCP strategic priorities in 2009-12 and 2013-17
  • reading eco-feminist theory

Hoping to get the report out to research participants within the next couple of months - so I'd better get on with it. Anyway we all know the old parable about tortoises and hares I guess (hope it's true).

In the meantime, hasn't Australian politics been interesting? We live in interesting times. Yes we all have our views on particular politicians, but isn't the basic issue that many of us (hopefully the majority) want a fairer Australia?

This article by David Marr seems to cover it pretty well: 'Abbott has failed to make the one promise that could save him: to be fair'.

Interested to hear your views on this. I know commenting on blogger is hard, but it can be done! Or you can email me on valerie.kay@monash.edu if you can't comment here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Project update - project report now early next year

Classified as: project update

I had planned to send a project report to all participants in October, with a survey for final comments. However it now looks as though I won't be able to do that until early next year.

So this is just a brief update, explaining the delay. It's mainly because I have been working on two tasks: one, finishing an article on climate change denial (based on a literature review) that I hope to publish; the second, a review of Primary Care Partnership (PCP) strategic plans that I'm currently working on.

While this research is on three PCPs specifically, it's valuable to put their work in the context of what all PCPs in Victoria are doing. I began looking  at the PCP strategic plans particularly for a guest presentation I did recently for Masters of Public Health students in the 'Climate Change and Public Health' unit at Monash. I am now reviewing the plans systematically to see how many PCPs are, or were, addressing climate change and equity in their strategic priorities in 2013-17 and 2009-12.

It's been a time consuming business getting all the plans from the PCPs (the 2013-17 plans no longer appear to be published on the Department of Health website as the 2009-12 plans were) and going through them all. I hope to finish it in the next week or so, and then send my preliminary conclusions out to all the PCPs for checking. When that is completed I will return to finalising the research report for those who have been involved directly in the project.

I probably won't finish the report until December, and then I have to apply to the Ethics Committee for approval of the final survey, so I don't expect that to be completed until early next year. My apologies for this delay, but I think having the information about all the PCP plans, for context, will add value to the research.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Crying on the tram for Gough.

Classified as: reflective journal, politics

I had forgotten that Gough Whitlam's memorial service was on today until I was on the tram around 10.30 and started looking at twitter. The tributes started coming through and to my surprise I found tears in my eyes. Gough - and Margaret - Whitlam meant so much to my generation. I can't say it all again, it's been said many times now, but still - it's the generous heart that counts.

The Guardian had a good coverage here. Some excerpts:

Graham Freudenberg, Whitlam's speech writer ... "recalls Whitlam touching his shoulder before he gave an important speech.

'It’s been a long road, comrade, but I think we’re there. He knew how much the words and the touch would mean to me at such a moment.You would go to the barricades with such a man. The Whitlam touch is on us all. He touches us in our day-to-day lives, in the way we think about Australia, in the way we see the world. He touches, still, the millions who share his vision for a more equal Australia, a more independent, inclusive, generous and tolerant Australia, a nation confident of its future in our region and the world.' 


In Melbourne ... [Melissa Davey reporting]

Annie McCrory used to hold fundraisers for the Labor party in Cairns in the 70s.

Watching Gough Whitlam’s memorial service at Melbourne’s Federation Square, she shares her memories of him.

“He used to come with Margaret to our fundraising barbecues and they were a happy, lovely couple.

“She used to make jokes about him all the time, and he always laughed the loudest.

“They were wonderful people who had time for everyone. I have photos of them on my wall still.”

Sitting next to McCrory is Gillian McLeod, who says the election of Whitlam was a “breath of fresh air”.

“Australia had been waiting a long time for someone like him,” she said.

“A very long time.”


 Auntie Millie Ingram ...the welcome to country on behalf of the Gadigal people:

'The impact that the Whitlam government had on our people was enormous and can’t be underestimated. ..
Mr Whitlam, you were a brave and inspired man and we loved you and you will live on in our memories.'


Noel Pearson

'We salute this old man for his great love and dedication to his country and to the Australian people. When he breathed, he truly was Australia’s greatest white elder and friend without peer of the original Australians.' "

The video of Noel Pearson's speech http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/video/2014/nov/05/noel-pearson-gough-whitlam-memorial-speech-video

RIP Gough, legend.