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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / November 2020 / Dipping Our Toes in Rising Waters: UR CTSI Joins Planetary Health Alliance

Dipping Our Toes in Rising Waters: UR CTSI Joins Planetary Health Alliance

Group of activists holding signs that say, "Our house is on fire!!" "There is no planet B" "System change not climate change!" and "Evidence over ignorance."Through decades of research, it has become clear that humans are impacting the global climate – and those changes impact human health in turn. Last week the UR CTSI expanded the scope of its mission by joining the Planetary Health Alliance (PHA), a global consortium committed to understanding and addressing global environmental change and its health impacts. 

“The UR CTSI has always been devoted to improving the health of individuals and populations,” said UR CTSI Co-Director Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D., “and we are excited to make this foray into the new area of planetary health – to explore the relationship between people, health, and the natural world."

The idea to join forces with the PHA came from David Adler, M.D., M.P.H., professor and director of research for the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and past UR CTSI Career Development KL2 scholar.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to human health,” Adler said. “I was looking for an opportunity to engage in this area with an external stakeholder. The PHA came to my attention because it is the pre-eminent, U.S.-based, academically-oriented organization working in the area.”

The PHA, which was launched in 2016 with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, aims to grow the field of planetary health, which investigates the health impacts of human-caused disruptions of Earth’s natural systems. While climate change may be first to pop to mind, planetary health explores many other human activities that profoundly affect the global environment and health.

By depleting natural resources, generating massive amounts of waste and toxic pollutants, and causing large-scale biodiversity loss, humans are unleashing new infectious diseases and natural hazards, limiting our own access to clean air and drinkable water and threatening food production. In return, we are more susceptible to injury and disease and our nutrition and mental health is suffering. 

The PHA strives to create a world where all people thrive by protecting and regenerating Earth’s natural systems. Through its vast network of over 260 member institutions from over 40 countries, the alliance aims to fundamentally shift how humans interact with each other and nature, by sharing evidence-based information and training the next generation of planetary health practitioners.  

By joining the alliance, the UR CTSI will help the University of Rochester community tap into a wealth of educational resources as well as planetary health experts and mentors from around the world. UR researchers can also take advantage of planetary health research opportunities through the network and help drive the PHA research agenda.

The UR CTSI is currently working to incorporate planetary health into its robust education and research efforts and will host an Un-Meeting related to climate change and human health within the next year.

Healthcare providers at URMC can also join over 700 clinicians from around the world in the PHA’s Clinicians for Planetary Health (C4PH) initiative, which is built on the idea that healthcare providers are uniquely positioned to communicate planetary health challenges and solutions to patients. By joining C4PH, healthcare providers can help develop outreach materials that encourage individual and community-level planetary health action.

Michael Hazard | 11/12/2020

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