5 Actions for Planetary Health

By Adriana Selwyn and Sarah Kunkle

Today, the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health releases its report “Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch.” Launch events are taking place at The Rockefeller Foundation in New Yok, and hosted by Discovery Ltd in Johannesburg. The link between human health and conservation has been clear for well over 100 years, as President Roosevelt added human health into a commission on conserving the Earth’s forests, mineral resources and water back in 1908.

Human health today is in many ways doing better than ever before. The report, however, reaffirms a troubling fact: we are thriving by exploiting the Earth’s natural resources. Just as with our own health, short-sighted decisions to satisfy present needs often override long-term considerations, so society has mortgaged the health of future generations and the planet for present-day economic development.

We have reached a point where environmental degradation poses serious threats to health. Environmental changes (such as land degradation, soil erosion, over-fishing and biodiversity losses) can affect food availability, nutrient compositions, and destabilize global food systems. Changes in land-use, agriculture, and food production account for approximately half of infectious diseases transmitted from animals to humans.

Similarly, modern-day lifestyles and urbanization continue to impact planetary health. Excess food intake and increased dependence on car use associated with obesity also contribute excessively to environmental footprints.

However, there is reason for optimism. The report describes new knowledge and technologies that can improve health and reduce environmental damage. Great potential exists to capitalize on demands from both the private and public sectors for more sustainable business models – commercially, socially and environmentally. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs recent report “Healthy Food for a Healthy World” described how agricultural and food systems can be realigned to address global over- and under-nutrition, and just last month another Lancet report declared climate change the greatest opportunity for global health this century.

This is an issue for all people, countries, and markets. We encourage you to take the following actions to support the work towards a healthy and sustainable future for generations to come:

  1. Reduce food and household waste (recycle, reuse and repair).
  2. Cut down consumption of animal products and eat more plant foods.
  3. Drive less, walk or cycle more.
  4. Demand more from those around you – encourage those in your workplace, in your local communities, and at local retailers to consider the environmental impact of their daily choices.
  5. Spread the word. The future of the planet depends on each person making healthy and sustainable choices, every day.


For more materials about this report including an infographic, visit http://www.thelancet.com/commissions/planetary-health

Do you have any ideas on actions to improve planetary health or examples of sustainable development? What are you doing to make a difference? Let us know by sharing in the comments below or tweeting at the Vitality Institute @VitalityInst.


Photo credit: this blog

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