Planetary Health Forum: Emerging Infections & Climate Change

On Thursday, April 4, GPH hosted the Planetary Health Forum: Emerging Infections and Climate Change. Featuring discussions on the microbiology of communicable diseases and agent-based modeling, as well as the impacts of climate change on human health, the forum helped bring research and practice together to address some of today’s most pressing public health issues.

Planetary health is an interdisciplinary field that underscores the inextricable link between human and environmental health. Leading voices in the field define planetary health as “the health of human civilization and the natural systems on which it depends.” At the core of this concept is the idea that human activity (inefficient use of resources, unsustainable practices, release of emissions, etc.) remains a major driver of climate change and risk to the health of humans, animals, and the environment. Ultimately, the goal of planetary health is to provide a new framework that public health practitioners, policymakers, and consumers alike can use to develop innovative solutions to these problems.

The event opened with welcoming remarks from GPH Vice Dean Dr. Ana Abraído-Lanza, followed by Dr. Bernadette Boden-Albala, Senior Associate Dean of Research and Program Development; Interim Chair, Department of Epidemiology; Professor of Epidemiology.

Guests then heard from morning keynote speaker Dr. Chris Plowe, Director of the Global Health Institute and Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, and Global Health. Dr. Plowe discussed the ways in which climate change has impacted malaria eradication efforts globally.

Climate change is affecting and will affect malaria incidence, prevalence, and distributions. There is much uncertainty about 'where' and 'how,' but not about 'whether.'
- Dr. Chris Plowe

The event then segued into a panel discussion on emerging infections, moderated by Dr. Elodie Ghedin, Professor of Epidemiology at NYU GPH and Director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology. Panelists included the following:

  • Dr. Jane Carlton, NYU Silver Professor of Biology, NYU College of Arts and Science, Professor of Microbiology NYU School of Medicine; Director, Center for the Study of Complex Malaria in India
    • Topic: Climate change and malaria eradication efforts in India
  • Dr. P’ng Loke, Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology (Parasitology), NYU Langone Health
    • Topic: Helminth Infections and the Hygiene Hypothesis
  • Dr. Yesim Tozan, Clinical Associate Professor of Global Health, NYU GPH
    • Topic: Vector Borne Diseases in a Warming Climate

Dr. Joshua Epstein later facilitated a lunchtime discussion on agent-based modeling and global health while giving the audience a preview of the work underway in his Agent-Based Modeling lab. Dr. Epstein explained how agent-based modeling can help public health practitioners and policymakers better understand the spread of all diseases, not just those impacted by climate change.

Following Dr. Epstein's discussion was an afternoon panel on climate change and global environmental health facilitated by Dr. Jack Caravanos, Clinical Professor of Environmental Public Health Sciences at NYU GPH. Before diving into the panel, Dr. Caravanos gave a compelling presentation on resilience in the face of climate change. The afternoon panel featured the following speakers:

  • Dr. Pam Factor-Litvak, Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health
    • Topic: Climate Change, Coastal Flooding and Psychosocial Stress
  • Dr. Andrea Silverman, Professor of Environmental Public Health, NYU GPH
    • Climate Change and Public Health: Impacts to Water Quality
  • Dr. Judith Zelikoff, Professor, Department of Environmental Medicine, NYU Langone Health
    • Topic: Climate Change and Toxicological Health Impacts

An afternoon keynote address was later delivered by Dr. Dale Jamieson, Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy, NYU College of Arts and Sciences; Affiliated Professor of Law, NYU School of Law. As part of his keynote, Dr. Jamieson also gave a lecture that explored the ways in which "No Regrets" policies can help save lives. The event then concluded with final remarks by Dr. Elodie Ghedin.

We look forward to hosting more thought-provoking events like the Planetary Health Forum in the future!

Planetary Health Forum