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Planetary Health initiative launches at University of Sydney

December 14, 2017
Forging a path to a sustainable future

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark launches world-first Planetary Health Platform at University of Sydney.

The University of Sydney’s Planetary Health Platform, launching today, will safeguard the health and wellbeing of current and future generations by building knowledge and capacity for the transformation to a sustainable world.

The new Platform will be launched by Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, following an address by Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet.

The world’s first Professor of Planetary Health, Tony Capon said by almost any measure human health is better now than ever before, however to achieve these gains the natural environment has been exploited at an unprecedented rate.

“Planetary health is about safeguarding the health and wellbeing of current and future generations through rethinking the way we feed, move, house, power and care for the world,” said Professor Capon who will direct the platform.

With projects ranging from mental health and climate change in the wake of Cyclone Debbie, to sustainable and low-cost ways to protect the vulnerable during heatwaves, the planetary health initiative is founded on the interconnectedness of human and natural systems.

The Planetary Health Platform will:

  • Develop multidisciplinary research on the relationships between human health and natural systems, the drivers of ecological change, and their broader sociocultural context
  • Offer undergraduate and postgraduate teaching that will equip graduates with the skills and attributes to help find solutions to planetary health challenges
  • Provide leadership and engagement with policy, industry and communities on questions related to planetary health.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence said coming to terms with the different ways that human, social and environmental systems link and interact is one of the greatest challenges of our time.

“As a pre-eminent interdisciplinary research and teaching institution, the University of Sydney is committed to developing the kind of world that we want to live in years from now,” said Dr Spence.

The Planetary Health Platform will encourage transdisciplinary collaboration across all University faculties and established multidisciplinary initiatives including the Brain and Mind Centre, Charles Perkins Centre, Sydney Environment Institute and the recently launched Sydney Institute of Agriculture.

Professor Capon is a member of the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on Planetary Health which published its report Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch in 2015.

Professor Capon said the Commission found that climate change, loss of biodiversity and toxic pollution of ecosystems pose serious threats to the lives and livelihoods of future generations, particularly vulnerable populations living in low and middle-income countries

“Despite grave concerns about environmental degradation, the Commission concluded that solutions lie within reach.

“They will require a redefinition of prosperity to focus on quality of life and improved human health, together with respect for the health of all others species and natural systems more generally.”

 About Professor Tony Capon:

Read more about Professor Capon and his work as the world’s first Professor of Planetary Health in The Lancet.

A public health physician and authority on environmental health and health promotion, Professor Capon’s research focuses on urbanisation, sustainable development and human health.

Professor Capon first joined the University of Sydney in 1991 as a Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Sydney School of Public Health on the Westmead Campus, in conjunction with his appointment as Medical Officer of Health for western Sydney (1991-2006).

He has more than two decades of senior leadership and management experience in public health research, education and policy, including as director of the global health institute at United Nations University during 2013-2016.

Professor Capon returned to the University of Sydney as the inaugural Professor of Planetary Health in October 2016.

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