Planetary health is about seeking solutions based on the interaction of natural, social and economic systems
Humanity has made great strides in improving the health and well-being of society over the past century. However, at a global level, these processes have involved major inequalities, and have been achieved by exploiting natural resources at an unprecedented rate. We are now in a new era called the Anthropocene, characterized by changes including global warming and the extinction of a growing number of species, posing unprecedented challenges for the future of humanity.
In this context, planetary health is emerging as a new scientific and professional field focused on promoting profound changes in our societies so we can continue to improve the health of humanity within the sustainable limits of our planet, in a just and equitable society. Starting in October, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a centre supported by the ”la Caixa” Foundation, is offering a new master's degree in Planetary Health. This is innovative multidisciplinary master's degree will be the first in the world to adopt this approach.
This official inter-university master's degree, the only one of its kind in the world, aims to provide interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary training online for professionals from various knowledge areas, so they will be able to analyze the risks that the global environmental and climate crisis poses for human health, assess its possible impact and propose solutions for adaptation and mitigation.
"Our societies are facing major risks that require urgent and transformational actions to protect present and future generations. Planetary health provides an opportunity to begin profound changes to continue to improve the health of humanity within the sustainable limits of the planet, in a just and equitable society," says Josep M. Antó, professor of Medicine at UPF and ISGlobal researcher, a member of the management team and one of the lecturers on this new online master's degree.
Interdisciplinary knowledge for sustainability for the planet
In the face of a health crisis like COVID-19, planetary health is about seeking solutions based on the interaction of natural, social and economic systems. As the lecturer in Health Sciences at the UOC and member of the management team and lecturer on the master's degree course Marina Bosque-Prous points out, we need to promote research and training in planetary health not only among doctors, but also among professionals in other fields such as the natural sciences, politics, economics and technology, as today's challenges require interdisciplinary solutions.
This ties in perfectly with the UPF Planetary Wellbeing initiative, which began in 2018 as a broad-based transversal and interdisciplinary project across the entire University, to generate and transmit new knowledge based around this concept.
The new degree course provides specialized training in fields that are internationally understood to be the main challenges facing humanity: food systems, land use, loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, global pollution, urbanization and climate change. These challenges are interconnected, and can only be resolved from a global and integrated perspective. Cristina O’Callaghan Gordo professor at the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences, ISGlobal researcher, member of the management team and a lecturer on this master's degree course explains: "In order to address the degradation of ecosystems due to human activity, we need to study the political, economic and social systems that have caused it, and which at the same time contain potential strategies for mitigating or adapting to the current climate crisis and the environment."
Competencies and career prospects
This master's degree is aimed at people who hope to work, from within their respective disciplines, to help maintain the health and well-being of the population and the planet. Given the interdisciplinary nature of planetary health, the master's degree course is aimed at graduates of bachelor's and three-year degrees in the health, natural, political, economic and social sciences, and some engineering degree courses.
The competencies that students will work on include resolving complex situations in a viable and sustainable way, applying creative thinking to propose improvements or solutions at the local and global levels, working with interdisciplinary teams to attain common goals and searching for, analyzing, evaluating and using information to support decision-making.
Graduates will have received training to work in various sectors including academia and research, for doctoral students and researchers wishing to incorporate the dimension of planetary health and sustainability into their research projects. In the private sector, they could join the sustainability and corporate social responsibility departments of companies working in the field of health and the environment. In international agencies and/or non-governmental organizations, they could work in the fields of health, development or environmental preservation, promoting and coordinating initiatives aligned with planetary health in various different areas. In healthcare, they could join projects aimed at building environmental sustainability into health care and management, as a basic strategy to protect health at a global level. Finally, in government bodies, they could work as specialists in state, autonomous community, regional and local authorities as part of the development and/or implementation of land management, urban development and energy plans aimed at improving human health and the health of the planet as a whole.
Professor at the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences
Professor at the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences