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Medical students BreatheLife into conversation about sustainability

Medical students BreatheLife into conversation about sustainability - Featured Image

THE Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), the peak representative body for Australia’s 17 000 medical students, is calling on individuals to increase their use of active transport to decrease air pollution and improve their health.

AMSA has joined the global BreatheLife campaign, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), together with the United Nations (UN) Environment and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), to mobilise individuals to protect our health and planet from the effects of air pollution.

AMSA supports the BreatheLife campaign because it directly relates to health. It links how the choices we make in travel every day directly affect our health, as well as the health of those around us.

“As individuals, we must recognise active transport can be an effective way to support our mental and physical health, as well as other people’s health, and the environment,” AMSA President, Alex Farrell, said.

This week, sustainability experts have warned of the urgent need to plan community spaces, taking into account public transport, parks, and cycling and walking infrastructure, as Australia’s growing population moves towards higher-density living.

“The WHO has found that air pollution is at unsafe levels in cities like Melbourne, Canberra, and Hobart – a fact that really drives home the need to address this as a major public health issue,” said Georgia Behrens, AMSA Code Green Co-Coordinator.

“As future doctors, we know that reducing the incidence of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases caused by air pollution could save hundreds of Australian lives every year, as well as bringing massive savings to the health budget.”

This July, using the hashtag #MoveMindfully, medical students from around Australia are encouraging their peers and the wider community to walk, bike, or take public transport to reduce air pollution, combat a sedentary lifestyle and enjoy the outdoors.

AMSA has thrown its support behind the movement as part of Activ8, AMSA’s eight-month mental health campaign running from March to October. Constructed around eight pillars of wellbeing that underpin mental health, including physical activity, food, sleep and sustainable environments, Activ8 aims to raise awareness and engage medical students in maintaining their own mental wellbeing.

AMSA Code Green, and AMSA Healthy Communities have also joined the campaign, as it focuses on encouraging sustainable travel, not only for students’ mental health, but also for promoting health across communities and supporting the environment. Both are AMSA Global Health Projects – AMSA Code Green focuses on the health impacts of climate change while AMSA Healthy Communities focuses on the control of noncommunicable diseases.