Ca' Foscari to lead European research in the name of 'planetary health'

Photo by Mithil Girish on Unsplash

 At a time when humankind is suffering the effects of self-generated processes, such as pollution and climate change, scientific research is tackling the challenge in all its complexity by looking at 'planetary health'.

This approach highlights the close link between human, animal, and environmental health, including the serious threats climate change poses to human health.

Ca' Foscari University of Venice leads Planet4Health, one of Europe’s primary projects in this field, which received EUR 5.9 million in European Commission funding through the Horizon Europe Health Research and Innovation Actions Programme.

The team of statisticians from Ca’ Foscari’s Department of Economics and Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics will coordinate a hundred or so researchers from 17 European partners, who will work on integrating data related to the environment, socio-economic inequalities, and various risk situations.

"The information available today is fragmented, as it comes from different institutions and sectors. We want to offer a holistic vision that can foster data-driven policies," says Stefano Campostrini, Professor of Social Statistics at Ca' Foscari and coordinator of the project. "Through data, we can spot the problems, and also find solutions. Our ambition is to build a technological platform capable of visualising the complex relationships at play and suggesting actions both to reduce the causes of problems such as climate-changing gas emissions and to encourage adaptation to a modified environment and climate'.

“To do so - adds Suzana Blesic, researcher at the Institute for Medical Research in Belgrade and co-leader of the project - we will embark on a systemic cross-disciplinary collaboration that will include work of climate and environmental scientists, medical and veterinary professionals, technology platform designers, political, social, and economic scientists, risk managers and communication specialists, and co-creation with specific project end users. The main assumption of the project is that only in such a combination of approaches complex problems such as the climate and environmental drivers of planetary health can be better understood and appropriately acted upon”.

The project will last for four years and will focus on four case studies: vector-borne diseases in the Iberian Peninsula, air pollution in South Africa, water and food pollution in Central Europe, and a geographically cross-cutting assessment of the impact of environmental degradation and climate change on the mental well-being of individuals. Such impact has so far been overlooked, while it is key to understanding long-term effects on health and figuring out which adaptation measures can best serve our psychological and physical well-being.