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Public Health news: Our Health and the Planet's Health

March 2022

Our Health and the Planet's Health

Our complex natural world purifies our air, provides us with clean water, produces food, and provides countless other ecosystem services that underpin life and allow us to thrive. When we fail to respect and protect the planet (its bio diversity, climate, oceans, freshwater systems, and soils), these services are compromised, which can impact on human health. This comes not just at a health cost, but an economic cost. In 2007, a 'healthy planet' was calculated to be worth $125 trillion, several times greater than global GDP at the time.

There are clear links between our health and our modern lifestyles. Many behaviours that are detrimental to our planet- for example, inactive travel or the consumption of unhealthy diets- increase the risk of non communicable diseases (NCDs), such as Type 2 Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and cancer. By making positive changes to our lifestyles, we can help ourselves and the planet.

Through the following issues of Healthier Times, we will explore this interaction between environmentally sustainable lifestyles and good health, with focus on:

  • How being active and using our bodies to get about can reduce our risk of NCDs and benefit our mental health, whilst also reducing greenhouse gases, air pollution, and micro plastic pollution.
  • How sustainable diets (less processing, less waste, fewer chemicals and regenerative farming techniques) can lower our risk of NCDs, increase the nutritional value of food and boost our mental health. At the same time reducing GHG emissions, chemical pollution and soil degradation.
  • How devoting more of our time and space to greenery can improve our mental and physical health, as well as supporting nature.
  • How plastic-free living and minimising our material consumption can benefit our fertility, lower potential risks of toxin exposure and improve mental health, helping to reducing our carbon footprints and plastic pollution.

We will also explore the public health impact of declining planetary health, looking at:

  • The direct health consequences of climate change, such as mortality and morbidity from heatwaves, wildfires, storms, and flooding.
  • The indirect health consequences of climate change, both from an environmental and a socio-economic perspective.

The interconnections between human and planetary health represent a clear opportunity. If we start to prioritise sustainability in our society, we can improve both our well-being and our environment.

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