Intended for healthcare professionals


Future Earth—linking research on health and environmental sustainability

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 01 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2358
  1. Andy Haines, professor in public health and primary care1 2,
  2. Francesca Harris, research assistant2,
  3. Fumiko Kasuga, senior fellow3,
  4. Catherine Machalaba, science officer4
  1. 1Departments of Social and Environmental Health Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3National Institute for Environmental Studies, Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), University of Tokyo, Japan
  4. 4Future Earth oneHEALTH Global Research Project, EcoHealth Alliance, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to: F Harris Francesca.Harris1{at}

Andy Haines and colleagues describe how new research platforms present an opportunity to advance understanding of how to safeguard health in the face of global environmental change

Humanity is confronted by multiple environmental challenges that threaten to undermine the advances in health achieved over recent decades. The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health showed how climate change, loss of biodiversity, changes in land use, ocean acidification and overfishing, nitrogen and phosphorus loading, and environmental pollution more generally all have the potential to adversely affect health.1 A recent joint publication by the World Health Organization and Convention on Biological Diversity articulated the myriad connections between biodiversity and health and the threats to both posed by environmental change.2

The rapid changes in the global environment have led many scientists to conclude that we are living in a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—in which human activities have become the dominant driving force transforming the Earth’s natural systems.3 These natural systems provide food, clean water, and air and modulate the global temperature within limits in which humanity has been able to flourish for around 11 500 years during the preceding Holocene epoch.

The scale and pace of change is substantial—for example, the extinction of species is occurring at rates around 100 times higher than before humans existed.4 The population sizes of vertebrate species have, on average, declined by half over the past 45 years.5 More than 2.3 million km2 of primary forest has been felled since 2000.6 About 90% of monitored fisheries are harvested at, or beyond, the maximum yields that can be sustained.7 In many parts of the world groundwater is being extracted faster than it can be replenished, particularly to meet growing demands from industry and for irrigated agriculture.3 Thus water scarcity and other environmental …

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