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Our environment has always affected our mortality, should we add climate change to death certificates?

Arnagretta Hunter

As temperatures rise we predict increasing morbidity and mortality, particularly in the climate-vulnerable parts of northern Australia.

Last summer was bad for our health. We breathed hazardous air, watched our rivers dry up, lived in towns without water, suffered through scorching heat with record-breaking temperatures, and many people survived intense experience of fire.

Yet our death records for 2020 won’t record this. Death certificates will reflect the heart attacks or lung failure, the injuries and the organ failure that occur at the end of life. They do not record the environmental factors that contribute to these fatal events.

Human health is complex. At its core there is the biology and science of how our bodies work, and how diseases take hold. It is this biology that we record on death certificates with descriptions such as heart attack, stroke, infection and cancer.

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