Human Health in an Era of Global Environmental Change

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The aim of this reference paper is to provide an overview of the relationship between global environmental change and human health – the health of current and future generations. It draws on the 2015 report Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch: Report of The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, and on other key papers published since then, to introduce key concepts in planetary health. The paper cautions against the continued damage to the natural resource base on which good health depends.
Exactly how the environment impacts human health is complicated, however, particularly at the global level, due to the long timescales involved and the challenge of isolating environmental impact from the many other variables at play. Human life expectancy has nearly doubled over the past 200 years in most developed countries, mainly due to a safer and more stable food supply, improved sanitation and clean water supplies, and improved public health in cities. Medical advances have also played an important part, particularly in the form of antibiotics and vaccines. Human health has nevertheless been impacted by pollution and global environmental degradation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford Martin School, Oxford University
Number of pages60
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • Planetary Health
  • Environmental Change
  • Global health

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