Saturday, July 18, 2015

Researchers Call for 'Planetary' Medicine to Deal with Climate Impacts

Planetary Health: A Special Edition of the Economist Magazine (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Humanity's advances in health, longevity and prosperity are in a precarious position as the environment strains under a growing population and economic development.

To forestall future threats and to handle emerging medical problems, an international research commission yesterday called for the creation of a new field of medicine:  planetary health.

The commission, formed by the Rockefeller Foundation and the British medical journal The Lancet, investigated the links between Earth's natural systems and human well-being, looking at how climate change and resource depletion cause problems like infectious disease and malnutrition.

"The concept of planetary health offers a new way of thinking about the health of our planet and its resilience in the face of pressures like climate change, urbanization and globalization, to name just a few," said Helen Clark, administrator of the U.N. Development Programme, by video statement.  "This report is a very important guide for how the world could change course."

Human life expectancy, for example, has risen from 47 years in the 1950s to 69 years in the 2000s.  But at the same time, carbon dioxide emissions have soared, forests have receded and aquifers have gone dry.

Conventional measures of public health overlook these trade-offs, especially at a global level, so a planetary health approach is required to ensure that public health interventions like draining swamps to curb disease-carrying mosquitoes don't lead to water shortages that could claim lives.

The commission's report echoes findings from another Lancet paper from a few weeks ago:  human health has progressed, but the planet has degraded to the point where the latter threatens to undermine the former.

Read more at Researchers Call for 'Planetary' Medicine to Deal with Climate Impacts

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