Being Specific December 2019

Chair report

From where I sit – Dr Lara Roeske, Chair RACGP Specific Interests

Following last month’s release of ‘The Lancet Countdown: Tracking progress on health and climate change’, it seemed appropriate for our final edition of Being Specific for 2019 should focus on RACGP Specific Interests Environmental Impacts in General Practice.

A particularly timely topic, considering we have seen the recent NSW and Queensland bushfires, pictures of Sydney shrouded in smoke, the seemingly never-ending drought across Australia and the worldwide climate change protests. Chair of Environmental Impacts in General Practice, Dr Jessica Kneebone, talks about her interest in this area, priorities of the group and provides some resources to assist GPs.

This group was established in 2015 to promote awareness on the impact of environmental policy on health to medical students, general practice trainees and general practitioners in Australia. Since its establishment, it has become an effective network of RACGP members that has supported and promoted the understanding of the adverse, and beneficial, health impacts of the environment and environmental policies. The members of this group were also the driving force behind the RACGP position statement: Climate change and human health, published earlier this year.

Our Refugee Health members have also been busy rallying support against the repeal of the medevac bill. I was very pleased to represent the RACGP at the public hearings on proposed repeal of the Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018, back in August. I presented the RACGP’s support of the intent of this legislation that, quite simply, allows the temporary transfer to Australia of a refugee or asylum for urgent medical attention on the recommendation of two doctors. This is available for appropriate medical, surgical and psychiatric care that is not available in offshore facilities. Although ultimately the bill was passed with the support of the Senate crossbenchers,  we will remain vigilant on this issue.

It is an appropriate time to alert you to the new continuing professional development (CPD) requirements for the 2020–22 triennium. The RACGP has responded to members’ input to develop an enhanced and simplified the process. To find out more about the new requirements and visit the RACGP CPD 2020–22 Triennium webpage .

As we close in on the end of the year, I would like to thank all my fellow RACGP Specific Interests Council members for their hard work and support in 2019.

I wish you, your families and friends all the best for a safe and relaxing Christmas and holiday period and I look forward to working with you all again in 2020.

RACGP Specific Interests news

Climate change and health

The Lancet Countdown


The 2015 Lancet Commission’s conclusion that ‘tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century’ highlighted the need for a global monitoring system with the ability to engage policymakers and support health professionals.

In 2016 the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change was formed to address this gap, beginning with a public consultation to identify key areas of health and climate change to track and monitor. The collaboration recognises that the voice of the health profession is essential in driving forward progress on climate change and realising the health benefits of a robust response.

Publishing annually in The Lancet, with strategic and financial support from the Wellcome Trust, The Lancet Countdown is hosted by University College London, and works with 35 partners around the world to track and understand the link between climate change and health.

The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) has partnered with the Lancet Countdown for the past two year to produce an Australia-specific ‘Countdown assessment’ assessed across five broad domains:

  • climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability
  • adaptation, planning and resilience for health
  • mitigation actions and health co‐benefits
  • economics and finance
  • public and political engagement.

Read the 2019 report of the MJA–Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: A turbulent year with mixed progress.

A message from RACGP Specific Interests Environmental Impacts in General Practice Chair, Dr Jessica Kneebone


My interest in climate change and protecting nature has been simmering away for several decades.

My first self-chosen school project in 1988 in upper primary school, I elected to research the ‘greenhouse effect’. I remember drawing many arrows bouncing around in the atmosphere, reflecting back to a hot looking earth. Back then, my project focused on the environmental impacts of the ‘greenhouse effect’.

I now know a lot more about the health impacts of climate change. The evidence that climate change is damaging our health is irrefutable. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that ‘climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century’. We are intrinsically linked to the ecosystems around us, and as they suffer, so too does our health.

As GPs, we see these health effects first hand. In January this year, 3% of my home state of Tasmania burned due to an extraordinary number of fires started by thousands of dry lightning strikes. Hobart was shrouded in thick smoke for weeks. In my practice, I saw patients with worsening respiratory symptoms who were unable to go to work or be outdoors. The mental health impacts of the bushfires continue to resonate around my community. As I write these words, bushfires are currently raging across three states in Australia and my thoughts go out to those affected by these fires.

As doctors, we can play a serious role in addressing climate change. Understanding the links between climate change and health is one of the most powerful motivators to inspiring action. We can educate ourselves, our colleagues and our patients about the impacts of climate change on health. There is strong evidence to show that actions to address climate change would provide significant benefits to health. For example, promoting active transport would improve cardiovascular fitness, reduce obesity, improve mental health, improve air quality and have many other flow on health benefits.

RACGP Specific Interests Environmental Impacts in General Practice, provides an opportunity for members to be involved in activities that promote the understanding of the impacts of climate change on health and encourage debate and discussion on the health issues arising from climate change.

Our objectives and responsibilities are to:

  • promote a forum and network among RACGP members interested in climate change and other environmental, both built and natural, impacts on health to encourage and facilitate professional development and collaboration
  • advocate education and awareness on the impact of environmental policy on health to medical students, general practice trainees and general practitioners in Australia
  • establish links to support and promote the increased understanding of the adverse and beneficial impacts the environment and environmental policies have on health
  • act as a resource point for the RACGP on environmental and climate change issues as they impact on general practice in Australia.

I hope you will be inspired by the resources below to take up action and join together to work on promoting good health in the face of climate change.

About me: I completed my MBBS (Hons) at the University of Melbourne 2001. I then moved to the Northern Territory where I completed the majority of my GP training in Aboriginal health settings. While undertaking my GP training, I completed a RANZCOG diploma (DRANZCOG) and a Master of Public Health (MPH). I was awarded my RACGP Fellowship in 2007. Eight years ago, I moved with my partner and two young children from Alice Springs to Hobart, seeking cooler weather. I currently work in an Aboriginal Health Service in Hobart and a primary care clinic for newly arrived refugees. When I’m not working in clinical practice, I enjoy spending time in nature and volunteering with various groups including the orange-bellied parrot captive breeding program.

Environmental Impact in General Practice on shareGP

RACGP Specific Interests Environmental Impacts in General Practice has a shareGP space.

This is an area for RACGP members with an interest in this area to share articles and research, discuss clinical practice and collaborate on projects.
When you visit the space, please ‘follow’ to keep updated on posts and other activities.

Climate change and health resources


Doctors for the Environment Australia

Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) has developed this fact sheet to outline the effects of climate change on human health particularly in Australia, and how health can benefit from efforts to lessen and prevent climate change.

DEA was formed in 2001, its membership includes GPs, surgeons, physicians, anaesthetists, psychiatrists, paediatricians, public health specialists, academics, medical students and researchers who are committed to providing scientific evidence to demonstrate the important health benefits of clean air and water, biodiverse natural places, stable climates and sustainable health care systems.

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) has produced a Climate Change Toolkit for Health Professionals. It is designed as a tool for health professionals and students in the healthcare and public health sectors who want to engage more directly on the issue of climate change. 

Although written for a Canadian audience the toolkit is extensively referenced and translatable to Australian general practice. It consists of eight modules:

  • Climate change – Science, drivers and global response
  • Global health impacts of climate change
  • Climate change health impacts across Canada
  • Greenhouse gas emissions in Canada by sector
  • Climate change solutions with immediate health benefits
  • Taking action on climate change at health care facilities
  • Preparing for climate change in our communities 
  • Engaging in climate change as health professionals

 The New England Journal of Medicine

Climate crisis and health is a collection of articles and other resources brought together by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) describing effects of climate change on physical and psychological health and on the function of healthcare systems. It including resources to support action by physicians and other health care professionals.

Save the date: RACGP Specific Interests / ASPM joint conference

Saturday 1 August 2020

Following the success of this year’s ‘Trauma informed care in general practice’ conference, RACGP Specific Interests and the Australian Society for Psychological Medicine (ASPM) will once again present a joint conference in 2020.

The title of the 2020 conference is 'Integrating the Art and Science of mental health in general practice: Caring for the patient and the GP'. Registrations will open in early 2020.

To be the first to know when registrations open, please register your interest RACGP Specific Interests Events


National news

Certificate of Primary Care Dermatology – Registrations open January 2020

The Certificate of Primary Care Dermatology is currently undergoing a full content and technology review in preparation for registration 2020–22 triennium.

The certificate is vital for any GP wishing to maintain or improve their knowledge and skills in this important area of general practice.

Registrations open in January 2020. In the meantime, you can find out more about the certificate, by emailing



RACGP Practice Owners National Conference – Brisbane

Saturday and Sunday 16–17 May 2020

The RACGP Practice Owners National Conference delivers a two-day program on a range of topics developed in consultation with general practices owners and managers. It will explore the unique needs of existing and aspiring practice owners and practice managers.

The conference program showcases a range of topics that will highlight:

  • the professional growth of current practice owners
  • the future needs of practice owners and managers
  • aspiring practice owners’ transition into ownership
  • the essential role of practice managers.

This year’s conference will also include a stream specifically designed for rural and remote practices.

The 2020 RACGP Practice Owners Conference provides an ideal opportunity to connect with general practice owners and managers from around Australia.

For more information and to register – visit the conference website.

New triennium, new gplearning – Accessing your gplearning activities

From 1 January 2020, gplearning is moving to a new and improved Learning Management System, which you will be able to access through your account on the RACGP website.

The current gplearning will be available for a short period after the change of triennium, and you will be able to complete any 2017–19 triennium courses up until Wednesday 8 January 2020. After this date, access to the current gplearning will be discontinued.

Accessing gplearning 2020

  1. Log in to the RACGP website
  2. Select My Account
  3. Select the gplearning 2020 link
Please note, you will need to be logged into the RACGP website first for your profile to be automatically logged in to the gplearning 2020 LMS.

External news

Rural and remote clinicians required for antenatal ultrasound needs analysis survey

The University of South Australia‘s (UniSA) Healthy Newborn Project is calling for healthcare clinicians (GPs / midwives / nurses / community workers) providing antenatal care (with or without ultrasound) to participate in a survey investigating the use of antenatal ultrasound in rural and remote Australian communities.

A $1000 prize/scholarship random draw is on offer.

Data collected will provide evidence to inform governments of potential solutions to improve maternal and fetal wellbeing. Frontline healthcare professionals’ feedback is vital to this process.

Take the survey.


The RACGP does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may result from reliance on, or the use of, any information contained in this newsletter.