Introduction to planetary health

Guide editors

Vic NeufeldAssociate Fellow Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria
Verena Rossa-RoccorPhD student, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia


In March 2014, a group led by Richard Horton, Editor of the British journal The Lancet, published a short article: From public to planetary health: a manifesto, stating: Our goal is to create a movement for planetary health”.

By the time BCCI-2 took place five years later in 2019, using the title Planetary Health: Local and Global, there indeed was an extensive world-wide movement for planetary health.

The purpose of this module is to summarize some key resources and events of particular interest to the BCCI Community of Practice, along with some ideas for further exploration.


  • Most recently a textbook for Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves, has been released, edited by Samuel Myers and Howard Frumkin, and published by Island Press/Washington/Covelo.  The book was recently reviewed by Anthony Capon (a member of the Rockefeller/Lancet Commission) in Vol 396 October 24, 2020 pp.1325-1326.


  • An important development was the creation in 2016 of an organization: Planetary Health Alliance (PHA), based at Harvard University, Boston. The PHA has become a large organization with more than 200 members, many of them universities from all over the world. There are several sub-groups such as the Planetary Health Campus Ambassadors (PHCA) program for students, and Clinicians for Planetary Health (C4PH). The website is well worth exploring, particularly the Education Resources and the Research Bibliography. There is an informative monthly newsletter.
  • There also are annual meetings of the PHA—the 2021 (virtual) meeting takes place April 25-30, 2021 hosted by the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • There now are planetary health academic units all over the world. Here are two in Canada:
  • The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University has an active program in planetary health. See: Led by James Orbinski, the planetary health program is one of several initiatives in this new institute. James was the Canadian lead for the recent international “Recovery Project” – including the Recovery Summit (September 14-17) See:
  • Led by Tim Takaro, there is a planetary health research group at Simon Fraser University: Tim and other collaborators were responsible for organizing the webinar series earlier in 2020: Learning for Planetary Health: Early Lessons from a Pandemic. The series will continue on a monthly basis beginning in October. In the meantime, Tim and his team are developing some learning materials using the heading: Bouncing Forward, Not Back. Stay tuned for details.

Ideas for further exploration

As co-editors of this module, we recognize that planetary health is a dynamic concept with a rapidly expanding community of research and practice (that is—it’s a “movement” ). We are willing to communicate with members of the BCCI Community of Practice (CoP) who may have specific questions, comments or ideas. If appropriate, we may suggest carrying on a dialogue on certain topics as blogs on the BCCI website. Below we suggest one issue that may be of interest to some of you.

Also, here are brief bios (so you know who we are!) and our email contacts

Verena Rosso-Roccor after some time working as a psychiatrist in Switzerland and completing an MSc on Population and Public Health at UBC, is now a PhD student in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC (Vancouver). She was formerly a “student ambassador” with the Planetary Health Alliance.  She summarizes her current research interest as “trying to transform academics into effective environmental advocates”

Vic Neufeld is a “retired” professor living in Victoria, and an Associate Fellow in University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies. He has been associated with the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research from its early days. Planetary health has become a major interest, in particular how individuals, institutions and networks in the “South” and “North” can collaborate effectively.

Suggestions for further dialogue

There are other frameworks (emerging disciplines, approaches) that are similar to planetary health. Examples include: One Health; One Planet Living; Ecohealth – and others. Here is a reference to a publication about this:

Henrik Lerner and Charlotte Berg: (2017) A comparison of three Holistic Approaches to Health: One Health, ecoHealthand Planetary Health. Front. Vet. Sci.4:163. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2017.00163

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