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Planetary Health: linking environment, health and societies to safeguard our future

Planetary Health Symposium

Brunel University London's Environment and Health Theme, part of the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, hosted the UK’s 1st Symposium on Planetary Health on Tuesday June 6. The Symposium brought about 180 participants to Brunel, and had, as its main aim, to introduce this new trans-disciplinary field to staff and students, as well as external visitors.

Planetary health, a term coined by the Rockefeller Foundation/Lancet Commission in 2015, recognizes that the health of humanity depends on ensuring the health and resilience of our planet. The health of the environment and the health of humans go hand in hand.

The Symposium’s exciting line up of speakers featured world-leading scientists and pioneers of planetary health, including Sir Andrew Haines, former Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Professor Howard Frumkin from the University of Washington School of Public Health.  As Chair of the Rockefeller Foundation/Lancet Commission, Sir Haines provided an overview of the field, its vision, opportunities and challenges. Professor Frumkin, discussed the many impacts of climate change on human health, and provided compelling evidence for how mitigating climate change will have important positive effects on health around the globe. The Symposium also featured Professor Alex Ezeh, Director of the African Population and Health Research Centre who, through a remote connection with Nairobi, talked to the audience about the unique public health challenges in Africa, and the solutions at hand to address them. Brunel researchers Professor Juliette Legler and Dr Mary Richards presented Brunel initiatives on planetary health research and teaching.  Professor Legler provided an overview of the challenges of pollution in planetary health, an underestimated risk factor to human health that knows no borders. Dr Richards introduced plans for a new undergraduate programme in Global Challenges, the first programme worldwide with planetary health at its core. The day concluded in a stimulating panel discussion addressing questions from the audience and providing insights on how research, knowledge transfer and public engagement can help to tackle the various challenges faced in planetary health.

The Symposium was an inspirational opportunity to learn about this trans-disciplinary field, and to forge and grow new partnerships for action-based research and knowledge transfer, not stopping at recognising the challenges for planetary health but identifying future opportunities for working together on solutions in this new and exciting field of science. Despite the significant environmental challenges facing us, the Symposium left us with hope that we can overcome them to benefit human health across the globe.

You can watch a recording of the Symposium here