Ideas & Insights / All Perspectives / Ideas & Insights

Planetary Health: A New Discipline in Global Health

The consensus in the scientific community is stark: our planet, and its ability to sustain human life, is in imminent danger.

And humanity bears a great share of the blame for how bad things have become.

From greater pollution of our air and water to an increase in extreme weather events, our economic and development progress over the last 100 years has created unintended consequences for our natural world. These trends are not only causing changing patterns of known diseases, but they are increasing the likelihood that new, unknown diseases will emerge. And they are elevating the incidence of disease as growing human populations are more susceptible to the effects of environmental change.

Planetary Health Infographic - 2
Graphic sourced from Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Planetary Health Infographic

As the pioneer of the modern field of public health, The Rockefeller Foundation is pleased to be helping to lead the call for a new health discipline—public health 2.0— one that goes beyond the boundaries of our existing global health framework to take into consideration the natural systems upon which human health depends.

It’s a discipline we are calling Planetary Health. To accelerate the development of this new field, The Rockefeller Foundation joined with the leading health journal, The Lancet, to form a joint commission on Planetary Health. Commission members met for the first time at The Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center last July, and over the last year, have engaged environmental and health scientists, policy specialists, and public health researchers to create the recommendations, analysis, and case studies necessary to advance this field of inquiry. We are excited to present those findings through the publication of the commission’s final report.

Earth Image

Read the Report


But the work does not end with the report. We hope that its publication charts a path forward for how we can turn these recommendations into concrete actions and commitments.

To that end, The Rockefeller Foundation will provide $15 million toward establishing the pillars of a new discipline, in addition to $200 million we’ve spent over the last five years. New investments include supporting the continuation of the Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages (HEAL) initiative to the creation of a new advisory committee at Harvard University, to specific support to African Risk Capacity to launch pandemic insurance. We believe that these pieces of work will contribute to building a framework of planetary health.

We have the opportunity to define this age as an age of extinction or an age of resilience. With a focus on planetary health, we can—and we must—choose the latter.

Leave a comment