Category Archives: Human Health

Planetary Health: Taking sustainability to the next level

After being a professor of Sustainable Development for more than 18 years, I am proud to let you know that – as of today – I will hold the chair Planetary Health at Maastricht University.

For me, Planetary Health has always been the foundation of sustainable development. However, the sustainability debate has been hijacked in recent years by industry and governments. Their view regarding sustainable development significantly has been subordinate to the dogma of economic growth with little regard for planetary health. How shortsighted this is, has been illustrated by the various outbreaks of zoonotic diseases (with corona as one of the latest examples), our current climate crises and the global decline of biodiversity. These are just some examples, but it is increasingly clear that our own well-being is closely connected with the health of the planet on which we live.

It is not nearly enough to keep the planet ‘as is’. There has to be a positive, regenerative development in order to make the planet, and everything on it, healthy. If we respect our planet, we respect life, we respect ourselves. That is also what the new chair Planetary Health stands for. Taking sustainability to the next level!

Vacancies: Climate change health impacts, vulnerability and opportunities

PhD-candidate and post-doc Climate change health impacts, vulnerability and opportunities

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD and post-doc researcher on healthy climate adaptation.

Healthy climate adaptation is a key prerequisite for achieving a natural and vital rural environment. Addressing the physical and mental health impacts of climate change in rural areas requires a system-based approach that accounts for the fact that these impacts are mediated by changes in population, agriculture, nature and biodiversity. Vulnerability is a function of the extent to which individuals/populations are sensitive to direct and indirect climate change impacts and of the capacity of the population, agriculture, nature and biodiversity to adapt in a healthy way to new climate conditions. Human population vulnerability is highly dependent on socio-economic, demographic and technical context, while vulnerability of agriculture, nature and biodiversity are mostly determined by local conditions, such as (extreme) weather conditions, nutrients and water availability.

To date, however, there is relatively little (empirical) knowledge on the vulnerability of human health to climate change and adaptation measures within this broader web of demographic, socio-economic, technical, nature, biodiversity and agricultural developments. Using a system perspective, we will explore how climate impacts and adaptation measures will affect human health and its interrelations with agriculture, nature and biodiversity. In doing so, we will identify the most important challenges for future health and well-being in each of the selected rural regions. For the human population we will explore future climate scenarios, accounting for possible trends in risk factors, and identify at-risk groups within the selected regions in support of rural climate adaptation measures.

The PhD and post-doc will work closely together to:

  • Develop an integrated health impact assessment protocol for, and gain insight in (health) consequences of climate change for people and their living environment in the three selected rural regions, including a description of vulnerable groups in these regions.
  • Gain insight in mechanisms of climate adaptation measures and interrelations between different transition tasks related to different sectors (health, agriculture, biodiversity) by developing a theoretical framework between healthy climate adaptation measures and potential impacts.
  • Develop practical guidelines for incorporation of these health considerations and vulnerabilities in decision making, to be used on a regional rural level.

The post-doc will be co-responsible for project leadership.

Both PhD and post-doc projects are embedded within the larger transdisciplinary NWO funded MANTRA project (CliMate AdaptatioN for HealTy Rural Areas ). MANTRA aims to develop an innovative system approach that integrates rural priorities for climate change with health risks and opportunities for local communities. It will co-create data, assessments, measures and interventions for healthy climate adaptation in 3 rural living labs. The MANTRA projects involves different disciplines (health, climate, ecology, governance) and various actors such as universities, applied science institutes, assessment agencies, organizations for societal issues and citizen participation, health organizations and various regional stakeholders.

The candidates will be based at Maastricht University College, Venlo, The Netherlands. The supervisor-team will be led by Prof.  Pim Martens

Who are you?

We are looking for candidates who:

  • have a master’s degree (or is near completion of a master program) for the PhD position / have a PhD degree (or is near completion of a PhD for the post-doc position) in the field of Public Health, Sustainability or Environmental  Sciences, Interdisciplinary Science, or another relevant field;
  • has affinity with climate adaptation and health issues;
  • the PhD likes to engage in transdisciplinary research, collaborating with both scientists from across disciplines and societal actors; the post-doc should have experience in participatory research and co-creation processes.
  • is able to perform tasks independently and in teams, has good organization, communication and writing skills, and is fluent in both English and Dutch (For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level).

Do you want more information?
For more information about this position, please visit Academic Transfer via these links for the PhD-position and postdoc-position.

A South-African Perspective on Climate Change and Health

Climate change presents an unprecedented international and urgent health threat to sustainable development, human health and survival, thus placing human lives at risk. All health professionals have a duty to advocate for action at all levels to mitigate and adapt to climate change and can or should play a critical role in mitigating and reducing risk. However, the global health sector has been slow to recognise the impact of climate change upon health.

Interview findings indicate that South Africa, as a country and people, will be particularly vulnerable to climate change and its consequential health effects, food security and overall impact on livelihoods, particularly affecting the poor. Overall, participants held the view that the predicament in access to healthcare is set to overwhelm present and prospective generations within the South African context.

Responses to climate change, whether by mitigation of its effects or adaptation to them, will require strong and effective intersectoral organisation efforts within government at all levels, along with interdisciplinary research. A proposal to centralise climate change action within the national departments or to form a South African National Department of Climate Change, which reports directly to the president and parliament, has been made. As the aspect of climate change and public health intersects with virtually all other facets of government, such an initiative may go a long way to increase collaboration across borders.

Read the full paper here: Dos Santos, M., John, J., Garland, R., Palakatsela, R., Banos, A., Martens, P., Nemukula, B., Ramathuba, M., Nkohla, F. & Lenyibi, K. (2022). Climate change and health within the South African context: A thematic content analysis study of climate change and health expert interviews. African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine, 14 (1).

Urbanization and climate change likely to increase dengue risk in China

Significant land use changes have been taking place in China, particularly since the economic “Open Door” policy was implemented in 1978. Due to the development of special economic zones following this policy, the last four decades were characterized by rapid and unprecedented urbanization all over China. Meanwhile, since the first dengue outbreak in mainland China after China’s founding in 1949 was reported in 1978, China has been through dengue outbreaks of increasingly larger scales and a widening spatial distribution. Climate change, risk of imported cases, limited surveillance on dengue vectors, and increasing population migration, bring more pressure on the prevention and control of dengue in China. 

There are several pathways by which urbanization increases the risk of dengue. Urbanization could increase the risk of dengue by elevating the human-vector contacting rate, and higher distribution of Aeaegypti was also observed in urban areas. Our review identified that the regional hotspots of dengue epidemics were Guangdong Province and southern Taiwan.

The occurrence and spread of dengue result from a complex interplay of various factors such as meteorological variables, air pollutants, socioeconomic status, and demographic characteristics. Therefore, a holistic assessment based on time series analysis is needed at the regional level to prepare for future changes in climate and land-use on this important disease.

Read the full paper here: Gao P, Pilot E, Rehbock C, Gontariuk M, Doreleijers S, Wang L, Krafft T, Martens P, Liuet Q. (2021) Land use and land cover change and its impacts on dengue dynamics in China: A systematic review. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 15(10).

KNAW commissie Planetary Health

Vereerd lid te zijn van de KNAW commissie Planetary Health die gaat inventariseren welke wetenschappelijke kennis er nodig is op het gebied van planetary health en welke prioriteiten voor kennisontwikkeling er liggen voor Nederland.

Planetary health is de interdisciplinaire benadering van het verband tussen de gezondheid en welzijn van mens en dier en de ‘gezondheid’ van de aarde. Het gaat daarbij om klimaatverandering en verlies van biodiversiteit maar bijvoorbeeld ook om grootschalige milieuvervuiling, ontbossing, erosie en andere door de mens veroorzaakte veranderingen die gezondheidsrisico’s met zich meebrengen. Die risico’s zijn onder meer infectieziekten, problemen met voedsel- en drinkwatervoorziening, migratie en conflict en mentale gezondheid.

Voor meer informatie zie KNAW website

English

Honored to be a member of the KNAW (The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) Planetary Health committee, which will inventorize the scientific knowledge needed in the field of planetary health and the priorities for knowledge development for the Netherlands.

Planetary health is the interdisciplinary approach to the link between the health and well-being of human and non-human animals and the ‘health’ of the earth. This concerns climate change and loss of biodiversity, but also, for example, large-scale environmental pollution, deforestation, erosion and other man-made changes that entail health risks. Those risks include infectious diseases, problems with food and drinking water supplies, migration and conflict, and mental health.

For more information see KNAW website

Animals Are Running Away From Us – Indigenous & Religious Views on Animals

New Documentary!

Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. In this documentary, I discuss past patterns and future pathways with representatives of various indigenous cultures and religious beliefs. Learning from them about our relationship with animals may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today.

Maastricht University evening course health and climate change

02 November – 13 November (Daily evening class CET) (2 ECTS)

Register here.

Climate change poses serious challenges for humans around the world. Global warming is perceived as one of the biggest global health risks of the twentieth century which could have a range of effects on human health. Global warming is thought to have an impact on vector-borne disease, water-related disease, heat- and cold- related deaths, allergies, air pollution and malnutrition. The projected increases in extreme climate events such as floods, droughts, and possible intense tropical cyclones could also have wide ranging direct and indirect effects on health. Although the effect of climate change will be experienced worldwide, its impact will not be evenly distributed among people. In low income countries, climate change is believed to further exacerbate existing vulnerability to disease and food security risks, as their populations are, for instance, more reliant on agriculture, more vulnerable to droughts and have a lower adaptive capacity. As climate change can be seen as an amplifier of existing and emerging health risk, it might increase health inequalities and is likely to widen the health gap between rich and poor.

If you’d like to know more about the causes and implications of climate change, then register here for the fall evening edition for this course at Maastricht University before October 15.

Our sustainability challenges: climate change, health, and animal well-being

The lecture by Prof. Pim Martens, given Monday June 15th

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life, and our relationship with our natural environment and the animals within has changed dramatically. This has led to various outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases – with COVID-19 as the hard lesson learned (or not?). In this lecture, Pim Martens, Professor of Sustainable Development at Maastricht University, will discuss the complexities and connections between our own well-being and that of the animals with whom we live, and global environmental changes like climate change and biodiversity loss.

Maastricht summerschool health & climate change

The health impacts of climate change are becoming more visible nowadays. An increased frequency of heatwaves and a change in the spread of diseases – both are the result of climate change. If you’d like to know more about the causes and implications of climate change, stay tuned. We finished the 2020 Summer course, but keep an eye on this site and the Maastricht University Summerschool website for next courses.