The Planetary Health Alliance will not be tasked with carrying out research itself, but will provide: training in planetary health topics, support in using relevant datasets and research methodologies, announcements about relevant new research and job opportunities, an annual convening to share research results and opportunities – all necessary elements for building a cadre of young investigators with the capacity and motivation to break new ground in this field. In addition, the Alliance will support a postdoctoral fellowship, competitively awarded to post-doctoral candidates with outstanding track records within their disciplines and strong capacity to step out of their disciplinary experience to engage in trans-disciplinary planetary health research with PHA-associated faculty.
The Planetary Health Alliance aims to support the ongoing growth of a robust field of research in the following areas.
FOOD AND NUTRITION
Much of the global burden of disease is related to inadequate intake of calories, micronutrients, or certain food groups like meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Global change, particularly climate change, pollinator declines, fishery and wildlife declines, water shortages and other forms of environmental changes will pervasively affect our food systems and the ability to provide a growing planet with enough quality food.
VECTOR BORNE DISEASE
Vector-borne diseases like malaria, schistosomiasis, dengue fever and Zika are responsible for large burdens of disease globally and are highly sensitive to changes in environmental conditions including temperature, soil moisture and precipitation patterns, deforestation, dams and irrigation projects, and others.
Water scarcity is an enormous challenge in many parts of the world, with many of the most important aquifers being drained much faster than they can be replenished. These trends in water availability will have effects on food production systems, water-borne illness patterns, and other water-related diseases.
Increasing global environmental changes, including increasing incidence of natural disasters, will likely drive displacement of many vulnerable populations around the world, each with a set of important health issues.
Global environmental change including rapid urbanization and the disturbance, destruction or pollution of previously intact areas may have significant consequences on the mental health of populations in both the developed and developing world.
Natural disasters are only expected to increase given current climactic projections. And, with these increases in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, we would expect rises in the failure of agriculture, the forced migration of human populations, and changing strategies in terms of how people relate to their environment.
Air pollution is a widespread problem in urban and peri-urban areas across the globe, increasingly placing massive populations at risk for aa variety of diseases related to industry, forest fire burning, and other drivers of particulate matter expulsion.
Rapid urbanization is the dominant demographic trend in the 21st century. We could make an enormous positive impact on planetary health by designing highly efficient cities while simultaneously capitalizing on health co-benefits such as cleaner air and using physical activity as transportation.