Social Determinants of Health: Planetary Health


This fifth and final course is centered on planetary health as a fundamental health determinant. As we consider how the health of humans is dependent on the health of Earth’s natural systems, we will also explore how to apply futures thinking and foresight principles to planetary health initiatives. The topics of this course include:

1. Introduction to Planetary Health
2. Values and Sources of Knowledge
3. Action and Movement Building
4. Foresight
5. Data Applications: Regression Analysis and Scatter Plot Visualization

What you will learn

Introduction to Planetary Health

The field of planetary health is based on the idea that the health of humans is dependent on the health of Earth’s natural systems. This module introduces the concept of planetary health and explains how it can be used as a framework for understanding other social determinants of health. The first lesson provides an overview of planetary health as a discipline, paradigm and movement. Lesson two explores the Indigenous origins of planetary health, and how the Great Acceleration has rapidly increased anthropogenic changes to the environment. Finally, in lesson three, we examine how planetary health addresses environmental determinants of health.

Values and Sources of Knowledge

Module 2 builds on what you learned in the previous module, as we take a more in depth look at planetary boundaries and the key data supporting our current understanding of planetary health. Climate change is not the only issue we are facing, and in lesson two, we investigate the broad range of environmental issues caused by humans and the resulting human health impacts of these disruptions. In lesson three, we take a look at the 12 cross-cutting principles of planetary health education which define the guiding themes and values of the emerging field. These principles provide a foundation for the growing interest and efforts in the field. We wrap up this module by looking at sources of planetary health knowledge, as we begin to reflect on how we can all take action in improving planetary health.

Action and Movement Building

In this module, we will explore movement building and emerging evidence-based planetary health solutions as we discuss how to combat the complex environmental issues covered in previous modules. Lesson one introduces the idea of The Great Transition, which will require innovation across fields and collaboration across social sectors to address planetary health concerns. We will also review organizations focused on evidence-based climate change solutions. In lesson two, we will analyze strategies for organizing an effective movement to enact widespread planetary health initiatives that will create change on a global scale. While the issue of planetary health can seem overwhelming, lesson three offers reasons to be hopeful for the future, as we consider the changes we can make in our own life to address planetary health issues.


The purpose of this module is to introduce the concept of futures literacy and foresight leadership as people tackle the challenges of planetary health initiatives. People who want to bridge innovations across contexts must become time-conscious, future literate and embrace the dynamics of appreciation, influence and agency as they navigate change and transformation efforts. The development of futures literacy involves attention to the development and cultivation of futures thinking and foresight leadership. In part one, foresight is defined and several types of foresight leadership styles are described. In part two, strategies to develop foresight leadership are described and people are invited to apply futures thinking and foresight principles and practices to planetary health initiatives.

What’s included