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Planetary Health

Course Number
5400 (Epidemiology)
Course Instructor(s)
Ashley Mariko Aimone

Course Description

The world is changing fast. Globally, forests are disappearing, oceans are emptying, and droughts and floods are becoming more common, and more severe. Ever more people are moving to cities, many lying in coastal regions expected to be flooded over the next several decades due to rising ocean levels. It is estimated that at least a billion people may become malnourished by 2050 as a result of the desertification and food shortages expected to result from global climate change, mostly in low-income settings. A high-level commission of the Rockefeller Foundation and The Lancet has drawn attention to the fact that the public health community in general is woefully unprepared for tackling the challenges of a dramatically changing environment on human health, including impacts on nutrition, food security, and access to freshwater.[1] Planetary health is about the relationship between the health of the planet, and the health of people, who ultimately depend on the planet for survival of our species.  This course will provide students with a big picture perspective of planetary health, research, policy and practice issues related to it, and the implications and opportunities related to planetary health for public and population health globally. A key theme throughout will be consideration of health and social equity issues and the differential impacts of climate and other environmental changes on populations in light of these issues.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  1. Broadly understand the concept of planetary health, its distinguishing characteristics relative to the ecological determinants of health, and OneHealth.
  2. Articulate the nature of the Anthropocene and discuss current trends in knowledge and thinking about the impacts on human societies.
  3. Identify key human health effects and indicators across the lifespan related to planetary health and climate change.
  4. Identify key sources of data on climate change, desertification, human health and development, nationally and globally.
  5. Identify key sources of data on planetary surveillance systems.
  6. Understand key methodological challenges and limitations in studying planetary health.
  7. Start framing research ideas in this field.
  8. Expand thinking about implications for public health policy and practice in this field.
  9. Formulate advocacy perspectives from research evidence.

Methods of Assessment

Participation 20%
Case study facilitation 20%
Small assignments

  • Assignment 1 – 1 page reflection
  • Assignment 2 – 2 pages on drivers and impacts of CEC issue
  • Assignment 3 – 3 day  food diary
  • Assignment 4 – 3 day water diary

  • 5%
  • 10%
  • 5%
  • 5%
Final assignment 30%
1 page post-script land-based reflection 5%