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Momentum for Change: Planetary Health


More people die today due to air pollution than from HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

Climate change and environmental degradation are reducing the nutritional content of foods we rely on to keep us healthy.

Harmful chemicals in drinking water are stunting the growth of our children.

These are facts of life in 2016, and shaped the conversation on Saturday in Marrakesh, Morocco where The Rockefeller Foundation and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) launched our newest collaboration, Momentum for Change: Planetary Health.

The Rockefeller-UNFCCC collaboration is one step towards building a new field called Planetary Health, which provides a framework for decision makers in governments, businesses, non-profits and community organizations to ensure that their plans and programs protect the planet in ways that also protect human health. Through UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change, local champions will be honored for their community-level work to solve environmental problems that also harm human health.

In a stunning tent city built just for this year’s Conference of Parties (COP) 22, with snow-capped mountains in the background, I had the privilege of serving as moderator of the event at which the Rockefeller Foundation-UNFCCC collaboration was announced. Notably, it was held in a room normally reserved for important announcements by heads of state. This venue conveyed the urgency and importance of using planetary health thinking to guide important decisions facing the planet and our health.

Planetary Health UNFCCC Michael Myers

I had the opportunity to explain to the audience the hard decisions that policymakers and business leaders must make to develop thoughtful economic development and business plans that also protect the environment and human health.  A central purpose of planetary health is to guide those decision makers with data, evidence and models that protect people and the environment as part of planning for economic development.

The next stage of the Rockefeller Foundation’s work on planetary health is to build that economic case.

Panelists, which included senior environmental and health officials from Morocco, Gambia and Ivory Coast as well as UNFCCC, the World Health Organization, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, weighed in on the urgent need to take action on the environment in ways that protect human health—which is the core of planetary health. A key challenge that panelists put forward was the need for coordination of the many efforts among multiple sectors doing impactful work on dimensions of the planetary health challenge. The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by all countries at the UN last year, were noted as a potential roadmap for multi-sectoral collaboration on planetary health, as well as other related global challenges. No doubt, protecting both the health of the planet and those of us on it will require coordination and inspiration, and we look forward to the contributions that Momentum for Change will make in the next three years.

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