Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Personal View

Global health cannot be achieved without efforts to curb population growth

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 31 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7003
  1. Robin Stott, co-chair, Climate and Health Council
  1. stott{at}

Population stabilisation is essential to healthy societies, and is fortunately an inevitable outcome of the evolution of such societies. My line of argument is to understand what underlies healthy societies, and to provide evidence that non-coercive population stabilisation is a key and attainable attribute of such societies.

Over the past 150 years health professionals have, with increasing clarity, defined the characteristics of a healthy society. Michael Marmot’s recent report to WHO1 articulated the determinants of health and set out how the circumstances in which we are born, grow, live, work, and age are best arranged to ensure that people are likely to be healthy. In essence, the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health need to be so arranged that basic human needs are met, the available resources are shared more rather than less equally, and resources are delivered without overusing the limited environmental goods available to us. A “fair shares” society is a convenient shorthand way of describing such health promoting arrangements. Wilkinson and Pickett, in The Spirit Level,2 provide compelling further evidence for the health benefits of such fair shares societies.

There are no universally agreed indicators to mark countries that have attained this …

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