Dr Michelle Hamrosi was at her local markets on a scorching summer's day in 2018 when a 67-year-old stranger suffered a heat and exertion-induced cardiac arrest.
She acted instinctively to save the woman's life. The survivor was lucky.
"When you overlay climate change - and the future predictions if we continue on with business as usual - heat related deaths are going to become increasingly common," the GP said.
Heatwaves are Australia's deadliest natural hazard and heat stress deaths are set to rise due to climate change.
Dr Hamrosi, a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia and mother of three, said the connection between climate and human health was under-reported.
"It affects every element of our lives," she said.
"When I'm holding my third baby in my arms, I started to feel really strongly about climate change.
"I just want my children to inherit a healthy planet."
When the Black Summer bushfires burned through her NSW south coast community in 2019-20, Dr Hamrosi came face to face with the health implications and disease linked to climate disasters.
"During the bushfires, we had extreme heat and we had extreme smoke exposure. In that smoke is a complex mix of chemicals that when we breathe, it gets directly into our bloodstream," she said.
"Those chemicals have the ability to precipitate heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, induce premature birth or cause babies not to grow properly."
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared global warming the single biggest health threat facing humanity, predicting it could cause 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.
WHO anticipates climate change could cause global health damage costs to blowout to $3 to $6 billion per year by 2030.
But according to health professionals, injury and death from extreme events like bushfires, floods and heatwaves, as well as climate change-related disease, will intensify and disproportionately affect disadvantaged and regional communities.
Northern Territory physician Dr Simon Quilty has worked for more than 20 years in some of Australia's hottest towns.
He said the region was already "profoundly affected" by climate change.
"The next time we have an El Nino year, I expect towns like Katherine will see 80 to 100 days above 40 degrees Celsius.
"And within the next two decades, that could be going up towards 200 days above 40 degrees," Dr Quilty said.
Heat stress was causing energy, food and transport insecurity in the "most remote and most vulnerable communities".
"When you consider these remote houses that have up to 25 residents in a three-bedroom house and very poor quality design, if you get very hot weather ... people use more electricity and they disconnect more from power," he said.
"Fridges go off, people relying on electricity for vital healthcare infrastructure like oxygen concentrators, they run out of power."
He said northern Australia gave a "perspective" on the way climate change might affect the rest of the country.
"It's kind of like the canary in the coalmine of what we can expect next in bigger towns and places like Darwin and Alice Springs and moving southward."
For those who can't find shelter, temperatures above 35 degrees can lead to heat stroke, which has a mortality rate of 30 per cent, Dr Quilty said.
"Once you get above 40 degrees Celsius, all of those systems start to fail and you start to cook internally and lose the capacity to cool yourself," he said.
Climate and Health Alliance board director Dr Jo Walker said changing patterns of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases - those passed from animals to humans - were also concerning.
"Things like the mosquito - so dengue fever - are travelling further south because we're getting more tropical diseases," she said from Moruya on the NSW south coast.
Japanese encephalitis and paralysis ticks were also proliferating in once cool climates.
Dr Walker fears climate change will compound an already "fragile" health system - particularly in the regions.
"With rural people, because we're on the front line of where these events happen, they happen to us quickest ... and longest," she said.
Federal Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said climate change needed to be embedded in health strategy.
"We need to declare climate change our national health policy priority area," he told ACM.
"Climate change is the biggest threat to Australians' health."
Dr Michelle Hamrosi wants to see more funds invested into the "fence at the top of the cliff, not the ambulance at the bottom".
"Right now our healthcare system is the ambulance at the bottom. We are just bandaiding everything," she said.
You can read the full Young and Regional: Our Climate Future series here.
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