The opportunity to exchange views on the concept of planetary health provided the focal point for the 6ᵗʰ NTS-Asia Consortium Annual Conference held on 6 April 2022 at the Novotel Hotel, Singapore. Conducted in a hybrid format, the conference facilitated an exploration into the different aspects of planetary health across countries in Asia, with discussions covering the interpretations of and responses to the concept, specific risks to planetary health, and existing and/or hypothetical measures to operationalise the concept in each country.
Planetary health represents the highest standard of comprehensive health, without which human health would be under threat. The COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder that the neglect of planetary health could cause significant losses across sectors. Although the occurrence of a global pandemic had been predicted long ago, the warning was not sufficiently heeded and countries were not prepared, as evidenced by the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, our collective capability to deal with global public health emergencies would be insufficient if we continued the current approach to public health and the broader socio-economic model, even after the ongoing pandemic ends. Rather, a preventive or anticipatory approach should be taken as the cost for effective prevention would be much lower than the post-pandemic losses.
A holistic approach that takes into account the respective planetary boundaries would be needed to ensure the sustainable development of societies. This would entail system-level thinking, coupled with a multi-sector, multi-scalar, and multi-stakeholder approaches, to bring together different nodes of environmental and health policies. The idea would be to empower the processes underlying the co-production of knowledge, joint monitoring and review, networking between different levels of governance (central, state, local), and fairness and efficiency in legal procedures.
To effectively address these multifaceted and interlinked issues, it would be vital to infuse the concept of planetary health into national political will, before it can be reflected in national policy frameworks.