Ecosystem degradation often leads to adverse public health impacts. Unless, however, these impacts are proven and quantified in actionable ways, they remain vague externalities that are not factored into decisions about public health or natural resource use and management. The emergent field of Planetary Health must be more than academic in nature, and if proactively conceived in the context of recognized policy gaps and needs, it is poised to deliver powerful new and compelling arguments that demonstrate the range of critical relationships between the condition of natural systems and human health. The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health emphasized the need to “improve risk communication to policymakers and the public” and to “support policymakers to make evidence-informed decisions.”  In short, there is an urgent need for the Planetary Health community to inform ongoing local, national, regional, and global policy discussions, and for the Planetary Health community to be informed about the science needed to help address today’s policy gaps. 

The work of the Planetary Health Alliance has an important science policy component.  Led by Dr. Montira Pongsiri and Dr. Steve Osofsky, PHA science policy activities will aim to apply PHA science directly to inform decision-making, policy and practice.  To achieve this, PHA science policy engagement involves a range of activities including, but not limited to:

  • education of / awareness raising among decision- and policy-makers;
  • seeking perspectives from decision- and policy-makers about the science they need to address key policy gaps;
  • identifying policy entry points at local, national, regional and global levels where understanding of environmental change-human health relationships could directly inform best management practice, policy, and action;
  • identifying decision-support tools already in use which could be enhanced with scientific data on environmental change-human health relationships; and,
  • strategic partnering with other groups working on science to policy translation and application so as to share planetary health science policy experiences and further develop and document best practices on science policy engagement.

If you are involved in science policy engagement regarding relationships between ecosystem alteration and public health outcomes, we'd welcome learning more about your work.  Please get in touch by reaching out to: pha@harvard.edu.