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Future Earth liaison: Giles Sioen

The health of people around the world is tightly linked to the health of the places we inhabit. In 2015, the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health published its final report: Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch. The groundbreaking publication begins: “Far-reaching changes to the structure and function of the Earth's natural systems represent a growing threat to human health.”

The commission argues for the urgent development of a new avenue of research inquiry: planetary health. This call is a direct acknowledgement that greater health and wellbeing are attainable through “judicious attention to the human systems – political, economic, and social – that shape the future of humanity and Earth’s natural systems."

The Future Earth Health Knowledge-Action Network responds to this call, bringing health researchers together with other natural and social scientists, health and environmental policy experts and leaders in government, the private sector and civil society to promote research for better, integrated understanding of the complex interactions between a changing global environment (such as pollution, disease pathogens and vectors, ecosystem services) and the health of human beings (including livelihoods, nutrition and well-being). Long-term integrated observation systems to collect rigorous health, socioeconomic and environmental data will be encouraged.

Another major focus will be to build regional capacity to integrate and act on planetary health knowledge to enhance resilience, protect the environment and avert serious threats to health. This work takes place in the context of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals approved by the UN Member States in 2015, three of which deal directly or indirectly with health. Together with potential initial collaborators, including Future Earth oneHEALTH, the ICSU programme on Urban Health and Wellbeing, The Rockefeller Foundation - Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, the World Health Organization and the United Nations University’s International Institute for Global Health, Future Earth Health will further nourish collaboration with other on-going, leading research programmes outside Future Earth.

The role of Future Earth within these streams will be to convene traditionally discrete communities, challenge current perspectives and encourage collaboration, to improve what we KNOW and what we DO. Research in Future Earth Global Research Projects on changes of the natural Earth systems provides underpinning for understanding sustainable economic use of the natural resources and service.

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