Pacific Islands vital to planetary health

Pacific Islands vital to planetary health


With Pacific Islands nations controlling 20 percent of all oceans, they are at the foundation of initiatives to help the planet and our health.

Pacific Island countries are at the pointy end of global health problems. They endure an uneven share of the ‘triple burden‘ of disease — infectious diseases such as malaria, non-communicable diseases such as obesity, and climate change induced health impacts. But they are also a crucial setting from which to inspire world leadership in planetary health.

The academic field of planetary health was launched in 2015 with the release of the Lancet-Rockefeller Commission Report, highlighting that the health and vitality of all human and natural systems are inseparably connected. Around the same time, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which touch similar themes, were internationally endorsed.

In the global and regional planetary health arenas, Pacific Island leaders are poised to drive action. Pacific Island nations are large ocean states, managing approximately 20 percent of the world’s oceans, the primary drivers of Earth’s climatic system. They are at a stage of development where their policy decisions will significantly affect the environmental and social wellbeing of the entire planet.

They also support among the richest array of cultures and ecosystems from which to respond to the intersecting demands of the SDGs. Recognizing the complex connections that exist between health of humans, other animals, environments, and the planetary system at large, are not conceptually new. Such ways of understanding health are rooted in ancient times, as early as Hippocrates in Western knowledge traditions, and central to many Indigenous knowledge systems.

While intergovernmental agencies call for unified action plans for health, environment and climate change, particularly in the large ocean states, Pacific leaders are leading the clarion call for climate action. Recent Pacific Islands Heads of Health and Oceania Planetary Health Forums reaffirmed the urgent mandate for a consolidated platform for Island nations to respond to regional and global health impacts. Unifying and strengthening research and action on human, non-human animal and environmental health, natural resource management, and Indigenous local knowledge were seen as key.



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