What is Planetary Health?

“Understanding and examining issues related to planetary health is an absolute requirement for those of us who operate within the health and social sciences, environmental organizations, or anywhere human civilization and nature intersect. Planetary Health is not a new academic discipline or research field. It is a transdisciplinary system that builds on all of our existing strengths but forces us to work together in new and more powerful ways.”

— Dr. Steven Jones, PhD (2019)

Excerpt from Global Health Now:
Sweeping in scope, planetary health focuses on the sustainability of our civilization and the toll of inequitable, inefficient, and unsustainable resource consumption on the planet and human health. In addition to public health and environmental health considerations, it examines upstream political, economic, and social systems and calls for an interdisciplinary approach. The original planetary health manifesto and the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on Planetary Health defined planetary health as “… the achievement of the highest attainable standard of health, wellbeing, and equity worldwide through judicious attention to the human systems—political, economic, and social—that shape the future of humanity and the Earth’s natural systems that define the safe environmental limits within which humanity can flourish. Put simply, planetary health is the health of human civilisation and the state of the natural systems on which it depends.”

The Lancet Planetary Health’s editor-in-chief Raffaella Bosurgi, PhD, MSc, breaks down the difference between public health, global health and planetary health this way: “While public health is about health protection and health promotion within the health systems and global health looks at how to improve the health of populations worldwide, planetary health broadens this discussion by looking at the societies, civilizations and the ecosystems on which they depend. Planetary health offers an exciting opportunity to find alternative solutions for a better and more resilient future. It aims not only to investigate the effects of environmental change on human health, but also to study the political, economic, and social systems that govern those effects.”


Understanding the connections between Planetary Health and One Health

Public health science takes a systems-perspective to consider and address the factors that influence human population health outcomes.

  • Using interventions such as diagnostic and screening tools, vaccination practices, and water quality standards, public health speaks to a collective commitment to disease prevention, health promotion and the preservation of life within healthy communities.

One Health is a paradigm that takes public health a step further and helps practitioners focus on the multiple and inextricable relationships between humans, animals, and the environment, and the impact those relationships have on the health of populations.

  • A One Health approach recognizes that in order to ensure the public’s health around the globe, we must work together and draw from the best practices of complementary disciplines such as veterinary medicine, human medicine, environmental sciences, agricultural sciences, social sciences, etc.
  • One Health seeks to drive interdisciplinary approaches to human health, animal health, and environmental problems.

Planetary Health “broadens health research to include the external systems that sustain or threaten human health.” Planetary Health extends One Health by intersecting disciplines from the Health Sciences and Natural and Physical Sciences such as hydrology, soil science, oceanography, urban planning, meteorology, ecology, biodiversity, conservation, and policy and political science.

  • Planetary Health is not only focused on current problems but also the development and implementation of sustainable, future-focused solutions to society’s most complex problems.
  • Planetary Health challenges barriers and explores connections that exist between these disciplines.

Sources: 1, 2

Sustainable Development Goals

17 goals to transform our world

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call for action by all countries — poor, rich and middle-income — to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

Read the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals Report

Click on an SDG to learn more about a particular goal (facts and figures, targets, links, and more).

SDG 1: No Poverty SDG 2: Zero Hunger SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being SDG 4: Quality Education SDG 5: Gender Equality SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities SDG 11: sustainable Cities and Communities SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
SDG 13: Climate Action SDG 14: Life Below Water SDG 15: Life on Land SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Resources & Information

Read the latest from The Lancet Planetary Health journal: Planetary Health: a new discipline.

Click on the infographic for the full-size image. 

Click here for full-size infographic

"The only conditions modern humans have known so far are changing, and changing fast ... We need to move beyond guilt and blame and move to the practical tasks at hand ... If people can truly understand what is at stake, I believe that they will give permission to businesses and governments to get on with the practical solutions. As a species, we are expert problem solvers but we haven't yet applied ourselves to this problem with the focus that it requires. We can create a world with clean air and water, unlimited energy and fish stocks that will sustain us well into the future — but, to do that, we need a plan ... What we do now and in the next few years will profoundly affect the next few thousand years."
— Sir David Attenborough, 2019

Excerpt from The EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report

"Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and today’s children will inherit a planet that has been severely degraded and where much of the population will increasingly suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease.

Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth. However, food is currently threatening both people and planet. An immense challenge facing humanity is to provide a growing world population with healthy diets from sustainable food systems. While global food production of calories has generally kept pace with population growth, more than 820 million people still lack sufficient food, and many more consume either low-quality diets or too much food. Unhealthy diets now pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined. Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience and constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Taken together the outcome is dire. A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed. Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and today’s children will inherit a planet that has been severely degraded and where much of the population will increasingly suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease.

There is substantial scientific evidence that links diets with human health and environmental sustainability. Yet the absence of globally agreed scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production has hindered large-scale and coordinated efforts to transform the global food system. To address this critical need, the EAT-Lancet Commission convened 37 leading scientists from 16 countries in various disciplines including human health, agriculture, political sciences and environmental sustainability to develop global scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production. This is the first attempt to set universal scientific targets for the food system that apply to all people and the planet."

This report was prepared by EAT and is an adapted summary of the Commission Food in The Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems.

To access the EAT–Lancet Commission Hub page at The Lancet, click here

For the full report Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems (Walter Willett et al.), click here.

A presentation on the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health by Dr. Brent Loken, PhD, at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) PAW 2019 Planetary Health Conference.
A University of Saskatchewan (USask) Food for Thought series discussion examining planetary health, globalization, and humanity’s transition in nutrition, and lifestyle with USask nutritional epidemiologist and global health researcher Dr. Hassan Vatanparast (MD, PhD).

The USask Food for Thought Planetary Health Series

The University of Saskatchewan Food for Thought Planetary Health Series addresses the challenges of tackling global food security while acknowledging the delicate interdependencies of human civilization and the natural world.

To learn more, visit the USask Food for Thought Planetary Health Series webpage.



The Lancet Planetary Health


UN SDG Action Campaign


Planetary Health Alliance