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Human and Planetary Health Initiative

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Sustaining Nature, Supporting Health

Current models of industrialization and consumption are eroding biodiversity, degrading the environment, and impacting the ability of ecosystems to support human communities. Climate change and other environmental challenges are creating a health crisis of planetary dimension, with impacts falling disproportionately on vulnerable and historically marginalized populations.

Stanford's Human and Planetary Health initiative – a multi-disciplinary effort by the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Stanford School of Medicine’s Center for Innovation in Global Health – builds on a vibrant community of engaged faculty, staff, and students. Bringing together perspectives from environmental sciences, public health, systems thinking, policy, law, and other disciplines to achieve breakthroughs and find solutions, more than 130 faculty and Stanford leaders across campus are active in human and planetary health, and student engagement is high in all our work. Programs include postdoctoral fellowships, undergraduate and graduate courses, seed grants, early-career awards, robust solutions-oriented research, a speaker series, action and policy labs, and more.

With a vision of a thriving future for our planet and all who call it home, the Human and Planetary Health initiative is focused on driving solutions-oriented research, preparing future leaders, accelerating global impact, and building the human and planetary health community at Stanford. 

Our four areas of focus include

Climate & Health

Promoting the health of vulnerable populations by investigating opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation—including extreme weather, wildfires, resource scarcity, displacement, new disease patterns, and other impacts.

Image credit: Moniruzzaman Sazal / Climate Visuals Countdown

Disease Ecology in a Changing World

We investigate the ecological, environmental, and socioeconomic determinants of diseases transmitted through the environment, including vector-borne, parasitic, zoonotic, and wildlife diseases. We project their future distributions under scenarios of climate change and develop ecological solutions to control disease transmission, improve human health, and protect the health of the environment that underpins it.

Image credit: Anthony Ochieng / Climate Visuals Countdown

Pollution & Health

Understanding and reducing the harm from pollution on the health of humans and the environment by redesigning business models and processes to reduce ocean, land, and air pollution, support health, and build more resilient and equitable economies

Image credit: Abir Abdullah / Climate Visuals Countdown

Food Systems, Health and the Environment

Generating knowledge to develop a food system that provides healthy affordable human nutrition while supporting thriving biodiverse terrestrial and aquatic environments

Image credit: Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment

Resources and Opportunities

  1. Human and Planetary Health Early Career Awards
    Health is a critical climate, sustainability, and environmental justice issue. Submissions to the Human and Planetary Health ECA program should explore interactions between global environmental changes and human health, equity, and wellbeing – with an emphasis on developing novel solutions to pressing problems. This program is open to Stanford Faculty  only. 
  2. Human and Planetary Health Postdoctoral Fellowship
    The Human and Planetary Health Postdoctoral Fellowship cultivates new knowledge and solutions at the intersections of health and the environment. Through two-year fellowships, the program supports postdocs in conducting mentored research on cutting-edge human and planetary health challenges – and developing solutions for a healthier future.
  3. Education and Opportunities
    Stanford undergraduate and graduate students can explore courses and educational opportunities offered by the Human and Planetary Health initiative  and related partners.
  4. Human and Planetary Health Seminar Series and Events
    As part of our Spotlight on Human and Planetary Health speaker series, our initiative regularly hosts inspiring and informative speakers for events, fireside chats and scientific presentations on current Human and Planetary Health topics. We also hold an annual community-building convening on Stanford campus every Fall Quarter.

    For more information or to get involved, reach out to the Human and Planetary Health Managing Director, Allison Phillips: ap10@stanford.edu 

For updates and Human and Planetary Health news, subscribe to the Human and Planetary Health Listserve here: https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/humanandplanetaryhealth

Our Team

Stephen Luby

Lucy Becker Professor of Medicine, Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Professor, by courtesy, of Epidemiology and Population Health

Human and Planetary Health Leadership Team

Human and Planetary Health is guided by the following multi-disciplinary leaders from Stanford:

Michele Barry, MD, FACP

Drs. Ben & A. Jess Shenson Professor, Senior Associate Dean, Global Health, Director, Center for Innovation in Global Health, Professor of Medicine, Senior Fellow at Woods and Professor, by courtesy, of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
Giulio De Leo

Professor of Oceans, of Earth System Science, Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and Professor, by courtesy of Biology
Angelle Desiree LaBeaud

Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and Professor, by courtesy, of Epidemiology and Population Health and at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability
Erin Mordecai

Associate Professor of Biology and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment

Recent News

How Medical Education Is Adapting to Climate Change - Think Global Health

Educational initiatives are sprouting to help doctors and nurses confront the health threats created by climate change.

Agency in the Anthropocene: education for planetary health.

Science education could develop agency and hope for collective action in this era of socioecological challenges that impact planetary health - the new concept, 'Agency in the Anthropocene' of the 2025 Science Framework tells us how. 

The power of perceived expertise in health communication - CIGH

Medical professionals and scientific researchers are some of the most trusted sources of information — a status that can be harnessed to effectively communicate vital public health information. But the public’s trust in such expertise can also be used toward opposite ends, writes Jamie Hansen.

Just Add Prawns: Ecologists deploy a small weapon in a big disease battle.

The Senegal River is a vital resource, but it is contaminated with the flatworms that cause schistosomiasis. Researchers have been testing out an unconventional solution - controlling the disease by controlling the ecosystem.

Experts discuss how environmental changes are altering the risk for mosquito-borne diseases

Stanford infectious disease experts and disease ecologists discuss what we know and how communities can protect themselves from changing disease threats as a result of climate change and human activity. 

How Human Environmental Pressures Exacerbate Disease

A new study from researchers at Stanford University, Griffith University, and the University of California Santa Barbara provides critical insights into the root causes of vector-borne diseases—and how we can think more systematically about solutions at a time when climatic and environmental changes are impacting their spread.