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Meeting Summary: Advancing Planetary Health – linking health and environment data

Humans are dependent on the Earth’s natural resources, yet human activity is driving global environmental change. The result is an “unhealthy planet,” which could disrupt or even reverse the improvements to human health seen in the last few decades. The scientific community needs to advance understanding of planetary health by linking human health and environmental research to encourage action that will safeguard the health of human communities and the environments they depend on. Future Earth’s Health Knowledge-Action Network aims to facilitate research and policy action in this realm. It is a new research collaboration that will bring together leaders from a range of professions to address critical issues surrounding planetary health.

From 5 to 7 July, 2016, experts from the health and environmental communities met at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre in Italy. The participants included representatives from United Nations and non-profit organisations, development agencies, academia and Future Earth. The meeting was designed to share ideas and thoughts about how to integrate health research into the activities of Future Earth, setting out priorities for the Health Knowledge-Action Network.

The three-day meeting began with presentations on existing research that integrates human health and the environment, while providing a background for open discussion. Participants discussed potential priority areas for research and action in break-out groups: disasters, food systems, and cities. They also considered three proposed actions for the Knowledge-Action Network: setting research priorities, capacity building and systematic reviews. Methods for assessing potential health threats and outcomes were also reviewed.

The meeting enabled the development of proposed strategic objectives and implementation priorities for the Health Knowledge-Action Network. For example, the Health Knowledge-Action Network will support the collection and analysis of data linking health and the environment and integrate health into existing work around modelling “scenarios,” or visions of possible futures.  Although some activities will require additional resources, there was strong agreement that incorporating health into the Future Earth mission is crucial. Planetary Health, One Health, Urban Health and Eco-Health communities must proceed as a unified front to further integrate their shared visions and focus. The Health Knowledge-Action Network’s success will depend on continued collaboration across different backgrounds, organisations and disciplines, as well as active communication within Future Earth’s network.

We thank the Rockefeller Foundation for generously supporting the meeting.

If you would like to find out more about this meeting and the Health Knowledge-Action Network, read the meeting report here.