Unprecedented effort to address major public health threats caused by human impacts on the natural world
NEW YORK —Today Harvard University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and a range of other partner organizations are launching the Planetary Health Alliance, a new effort to dramatically improve our understanding of the linkages between environmental change and human health across the globe.
The Planetary Health Alliance is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, following the recent release of the groundbreaking Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, which outlines key opportunities to advance public health through more robust approaches to environmental stewardship.
Climate change is only one of many types of environmental change effecting Earth’s life support systems—in fact, there is now a serious risk that the dramatic gains to public health made since the 1950s could plateau or even reverse as a result of human degradation of a myriad of natural systems.
Dr. Samuel Myers, Senior Research Scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, will serve as director of the Planetary Health Alliance, alongside Harvard Chan School Research Scientist Dr. Christopher Golden, who will be the associate director of the project. Both Myers and Golden have extensively studied the intersection of environment and health, witnessing firsthand the trans-disciplinary nature of the field. The Alliance will be based at Harvard University and will involve the Harvard University Center for the Environment and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“The human transformation of most of Earth’s natural systems represents a clear and present danger to global health. There’s an enormous amount that can be done to address these threats—that’s why it’s important that we recognize these issues and develop science-based plans of action,” said Dr. Myers, “We are already seeing suffering due to global environmental change. How much suffering happens is up to us.”
“Environmental problems often span many disciplines, and the Harvard Center for the Environment has become adept at bringing together researchers and policymakers from diverse fields, making it the perfect home for the Planetary Health Alliance,” said Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard Center for the Environment. “The goal is to grow capacity and use Harvard’s convening power to create a community around planetary health, and create excitement for people currently working in this space.”
The Planetary Health Alliance will be grown into a consortium of universities, non-governmental organizations, governmental entities, and other partners, working together to build a community of stakeholders to foster research, training, and policy action at the intersection of human-driven environmental change and public health.
“The Planetary Health Alliance will help improve our understanding of the health benefits which natural systems are providing to humanity, “ said Dr. Cristián Samper, President and CEO of the NY-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). “WCS has long recognized the need to enhance the understanding of a range of critical conservation-public health connections, and the need to inform both conservation and public health policy. We commend The Rockefeller Foundation for its vision to support the development of this interdisciplinary field of endeavor, one of great importance to our collective future.”
“Increasingly, we have come to recognize that the health of humanity depends on ensuring the health and resilience of our planet—from our climate, to our forests, to the air we breathe and the water we drink,” said Michael Myers, managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation helped to pioneer the field of public health more than 100 years ago, and today we are proud to support the field building efforts of the new Planetary Health Alliance—which we think of as building ‘public health 2.0.’”
About the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) The Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) encourages research and education about the environment and its many interactions with human society. The most pressing problems facing our natural environment are complex, often requiring collaborative investigation by scholars versed in different disciplines. By connecting scholars and practitioners from different disciplines, the Center for the Environment seeks to raise the quality of environmental research at Harvard and beyond.
About the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. We work together as a community of leading scientists, educators, and students to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives, not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices.
About The Wildlife Conservation Society The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is a US nonprofit, tax-exempt, private organization established in 1895 that saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. With long-term commitments in dozens of landscapes, presence in more than 60 nations, and experience helping to establish over 150 protected areas across the globe, WCS has amassed the biological knowledge, cultural understanding and partnerships to ensure that vibrant, wild places and wildlife thrive alongside local communities. WCS was the first conservation organization with a dedicated team of wildlife veterinarians and other health professionals deployed around the world. The WCS Wildlife Health & Health Policy Program focuses on problem-solving at the wildlife / domestic animal / human health and livelihoods interface, as underpinned by a foundation of environmental stewardship. Visit: www.wcs.org