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The Rockefeller Foundation Launches Economic Council Focused on Planetary Health

Council of experts will investigate the economic rationale for the field

Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford will host the Council, chaired by Ernesto Zedillo, Yale University professor and former President of Mexico

NEW YORKThe Rockefeller Foundation today announced the formation of The Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health at the Oxford Martin School. This assembly of global experts will demonstrate the economic and policy case for the emerging field of planetary health. The field accounts for the link between human health and the natural systems on which it depends. Over the next 18 months, the Council’s work will augment existing scientific planetary health evidence by providing leaders and policymakers with economic data for protecting human health through the preservation of earth’s natural systems.

The scientific case for a planetary health approach was well established in a July 2015 report in The Lancet, “Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch,” wherein the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health detailed the ways in which the degradation of natural systems harms the health of individuals, families, and communities around the world.

“The scientific evidence of The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health made it clear that when we compromise the environment, we compromise human health,” said Yale Professor Ernesto Zedillo, chair of the Economic Council and former President of Mexico. “It is a fascinating paradox: the very economic growth that allowed human health to improve and people to live longer is actually harming our physical well-being. We need to turn this around, and we can. I firmly believe that prosperity and good health should go hand-in-hand, and the Council will chart a course for doing so, mindful that we have only one earth.”

A striking example of planetary health links is the fact that, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate, household air pollution from the incomplete combustion of solid fuels causes approximately 4.3 million deaths per year.

Among the Economic Council members are:

  • Scott Barrett, Lenfest-Earth Institute Professor of Natural Resource Economics, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs
  • Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Director-General of the WHO
  • Luisa Diogo, former Prime Minister of Mozambique
  • Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  • Sir Andy Haines, former Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Chair of The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health
  • Jacob Lew, former U.S. Treasury Secretary
  • Carlos Nobre, former Secretary of R&D Policies at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil
  • Lord Nicholas Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government, London School of Economics
  • Mark Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy

The Council will be hosted at the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.

“As a pioneer of the modern field of public health, The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to be advancing a new planetary health discipline, one that better accounts for the link between human health and the natural systems on which it depends,” said Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The Economic Council will bridge knowledge gaps on the links among economic development, natural systems and human health to compel collaboration across disciplines and coordinated action to address the complex challenges of the 21st century.”

“The Oxford Martin School works to find solutions to urgent global challenges through scientific and intellectual discovery, and to translate them into action by working with governments, business, NGOs and civil society. This mission will guide our work as host to The Economic Council on Planetary Health,” said Achim Steiner, director of the Oxford Martin School and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. “The Council embodies the urgency and optimism necessary to find answers to the pressing questions of how we can balance economic development with human health and the health of our planet.”

About Planetary Health

It is becoming increasingly clear that when natural systems suffer, so does the health of individuals, families and communities around the world. Planetary health is a new, multi-disciplinary approach to health and well-being that brings together scientific knowledge of both human and ecosystem health with what we know about economic trends, market behavior, and policy making. The Rockefeller Foundation is actively working to grow the field of planetary health to address the urgent need to safeguard the health of future generations.