January 8, 2021

Summary

This year, the week of April 25-30 will mark the fourth Planetary Health Annual Meeting which intends to bring together scientists, policymakers, planetary health community and civil society, academia and educators to discuss and find solutions to the planetary health emergency of our time.

More by Vivian Magero

Our health depends on how we take care of our planet

FOURTH PLANETARY HEALTH ANNUAL MEETING

This year, the week of April 25-30 will mark the fourth Planetary Health Annual Meeting which intends to bring together scientists, policymakers, planetary health community and civil society, academia and educators to discuss and find solutions to the planetary health emergency of our time.

Like many classes, trainings, meetings and conferences that had to be shifted from face-to-face into virtual formats in 2020, the Planetary Health Annual meeting will be held virtually, given the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Although Covid-19 restrictions interrupted travels and gatherings throughout the world, as many countries closed their borders and restricted movements and gatherings, most recent findings by a team of researchers show that overall global greenhouse gas emissions reduced greatly in 2020 as a result of these travel restrictions around the world.

MUST MAINTAIN ‘POSITIVE WIN’

Despite this positive win, it is feared that this gain would be lost as the emissions would most likely increase in 2021 if proper measures are not taken to maintain the positive win. Thus, governments must continue to prioritize policies that tackle climate crisis and planetary health emergencies as they make their economic recovery plans following Covid-19 pandemic.

As countries recover from the pandemic and open their borders while relaxing restrictions, discussions around what nations can do socially, politically and economically in order to address the planetary health emergency must continue to have a place on the table. The state of natural systems for which humans depend upon should continue to be a priority if we are to face the unforeseen disasters that may arise as a consequence of neglecting to take action.

CLOSE LINKS BETWEEN HUMAN AND PLANETARY HEALTH

We live in uncertain times bombarded with emerging crises that threaten the health of the planet as well as our global health, given the close linkages between human and planetary health.  Among these crises beside Covid-19 Pandemic is climate change crisis as well as biodiversity crisis which in one way or another affect the natural systems of our planet which we depend upon.

Many countries in Africa continue to experience adverse effects of floods, drought and harsh economic implications and have not been able to cope due to limited resources and capacity to deal with worrying negative effects of planetary health.

Hence, addressing planetary health emergency and creating awareness of planetary health discipline including its multidisciplinary nature should continue to be a priority.Some countries have already initiated discussions around incorporating planetary health education in their education curricular and research projects.

AFRICA POLICIES UNCLEAR

Africa is still lagging behind with unclear policies on planetary health yet the continent is tackling an ever increasing population growth, unmet needs for family planning, congested urban settlements with poor planning and drainage systems and also poor land use practices which cause a threat to the environment health.

Africa should be a major stakeholder and actively engage in the upcoming Planetary Health Annual meeting to discuss solutions to the challenges affecting the planetary health in the region. In Eastern Africa, for instance, a Planetary Health Eastern Africa Hub (PHEAH) initiated in November 2019 gained a momentum in mid-2020 to create awareness around planetary health as well as discuss the recovery post Covid-19 pandemic.

The hub promoted a series of lectures around the planetary health which aimed at increasing awareness around the topic, creating a network of change agents as well as transformative actions on planetary health by interested parties. As a result of the lecture series and awareness creation, other networks across the regions were also interested in creating other hubs in the Northern and Southern parts of Africa that would be useful in moving forward the planetary health work in the continent.

“WE AFRICANS HAVE TO JOIN HANDS…”

Ms. Melvine Otieno, the founder of Planetary Health Eastern Africa Hub in Kenya who is also a Planetary Health Alliance Next Generation Fellow at Harvard University and an Associate team member of Women Leaders for Planetary Health says,“ We as Africans need to join hands together and be part of the global planetary health movement and work closely together with our communities to be part of the solution in tackling environmental emergencies of our time including climate change for healthier planet, healthier us and  the future generation. I also urge our educators to take lead in empowering children and the youth through planetary health education in order to take responsibility to make the planet a better place.”

While this is a step forward towards introducing planetary health conversations in the region, still more needs to be done and all major stakeholders involved to collectively find solutions to this emergency. Now more than ever, it is evident that the bond between planetary health and human health can no longer be ignored as our health depends on the future of the planet.

Vivian Magero is a trained nutritionist and public policy and budgeting expert.

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