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December 14th, 2015
Harvard University, Wildlife Conservation Society Launch New ‘Planetary Health Alliance’ with Support From the Rockefeller Foundation

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Today Harvard University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and a range of other partner organizations are launching the Planetary Health Alliance, a new effort to dramatically improve our understanding of the linkages between environmental change and human health across the globe.

The Planetary Health Alliance is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, following on the recent release of the groundbreaking Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, which outlines key opportunities to advance public health through more robust approaches to environmental stewardship.

Climate change is only one of many types of environmental change effecting Earth’s life support systems—in fact, there is now a serious risk that the dramatic gains to public health made since the 1950s could plateau or even reverse as a result of human degradation of a myriad of natural systems.

Dr. Samuel Myers, Senior Research Scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, will serve as director of the Planetary Health Alliance, alongside Harvard Chan School Research Scientist Dr. Christopher Golden, who will be the associate director of the project. Both Myers and Golden have extensively studied the intersection of environment and health, witnessing firsthand the trans-disciplinary nature of the field. The Alliance will be based at Harvard University and will involve the Harvard University Center for the Environment and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“The human transformation of most of Earth’s natural systems represents a clear and present danger to global health. There’s an enormous amount that can be done to address these threats—that’s why it’s important that we recognize these issues and develop science-based plans of action,” said Dr. Myers, “We are already seeing suffering due to global environmental change. How much suffering happens is up to us.”

“Environmental problems often span many disciplines, and the Harvard Center for the Environment has become adept at bringing together researchers and policymakers from diverse fields, making it the perfect home for the Planetary Health Alliance,” said Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard Center for the Environment. “The goal is to grow capacity and use Harvard’s convening power to create a community around planetary health, and create excitement for people currently working in this space.”The Planetary Health Alliance will be grown into a consortium of universities, non-governmental organizations, governmental entities, and other partners, working together to build a community of stakeholders to foster research, training, and policy action at the intersection of human-driven environmental change and public health.

The Planetary Health Alliance will be grown into a consortium of universities, non-governmental organizations, governmental entities, and other partners, working together to build a community of stakeholders to foster research, training, and policy action at the intersection of human-driven environmental change and public health.

“The Planetary Health Alliance will help improve our understanding of the health benefits which natural systems are providing to humanity, ” said Dr. Cristián Samper, President and CEO of the NY-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). “WCS has long recognized the need to enhance the understanding of a range of critical conservation-public health connections, and the need to inform both conservation and public health policy. We commend The Rockefeller Foundation for its vision to support the development of this interdisciplinary field of endeavor, one of great importance to our collective future.”

“Increasingly, we have come to recognize that the health of humanity depends on ensuring the health and resilience of our planet—from our climate, to our forests, to the air we breathe and the water we drink,” said Michael Myers, managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation helped to pioneer the field of public health more than 100 years ago, and today we are proud to support the field building efforts of the new Planetary Health Alliance—which we think of as building ‘public health 2.0.'”

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