On Tuesday 11 May over three dozen community members from across Western Sydney met in Blacktown to join the conversation on the health impacts of rising temperatures. The two main speakers for the evening were Dr Kim Loo, NSW Chair of Doctors for the Environment, Riverstone GP and newly elected member of the NSW Australian Medical Association Committee, and Dr Andrew Melito of Kildare Medical Centre, long time Western Sydney resident and Wiradjuri man.
The attendees heard that extreme heat can have significant health impacts for people of all ages. The impacts of heat can be wide ranging, from respiratory distress, pressure on heart function and circulation, to mental health and anxiety. Vulnerable members of our community at in the most danger during heatwaves, but even healthy people can be impacted by heat exhaustion or mental fatigue caused by sleeplessness. Dr Melito spoke specifically about his passion for Aboriginal and community health and how heat impacts that community.
You can find the slides for Dr Kim Loo’s presentation here:
Emma Bacon from Sweltering Cities also gave a report back on the local results of the community survey. Across Sydney, 87.5% of people have trouble sleeping on very hot nights or during heatwaves; in Blacktown LGA it is 92% and in Penrith LGA it is 88.5%. You can read the report of the results of the Sweltering Cities Sydney community survey here.
The audience contributed engaging questions. They raised local issues including the construction of the Western Sydney Airport, planned garbage incinerators in the Blacktown area, energy efficiency in homes, and the need to cool down classrooms for students in our hottest suburbs. Audience members also added notes with issues they care about or want more attention on.
Some of the solutions to extreme urban heat are large and complex policy issues, but many of the solutions raised at the meeting could be implemented simply. Increasing awareness of the health impacts of heat will help communities protect themselves and know the warning signs for heat stroke. If we start with planting trees, creating more shade, using renewable energy for affordable air conditioning, using cooler materials and installing water features, we will be able to cool our suburbs and prevent heat related diseases. These community priorities are a good place to start as we take on the more complex challenges of making our cities more liveable, sustainable and equitable.