Planetary Health

 

Planetary health is focused on characterizing the linkages between human-caused disruptions of earth's natural systems and the resulting impacts on public health. 

 

There is no doubt that our global environment is changing – from the hottest years on record,1 to the worldwide disappearance of pollinatators,2 to the global collapse of fisheries,3 and to our use of about half of the planet's livable surface to feed ourselves.4 5

We are now in a new geological era, the Anthropocene, characterized by humanity’s dramatic impact on Earth’s natural systems. And though the average global citizen’s health has improved over the past century, the health of our planet has sharply declined—putting historically recent, and fragile, public health gains at risk.

We are faced not only with climate change, but also with declining biodiversity, shortages of arable land and freshwater, pollution, and changing biogeochemical flows. We are dramatically affecting our global food production system, the quality of the air we breathe and of the water we drink, our exposure to infectious diseases, and even the habitability of the places where we live. Changes to natural life support systems are already impacting our health and are projected to drive the majority of the global burden of disease over the coming century, hitting today’s most vulnerable and future generations the hardest.

Everything is connected. What we do to the world comes back to affect us, and not always in ways that we would expect. Understanding and acting upon these challenges calls for massive collaboration across disciplinary and national boundaries to safeguard our health.

 

1National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2016
2Potts et al., 2010
3Golden et al., 2016
4Foley et al., 2007
5Almada et al., 2017