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Climate Change and Health

The newly established research group aims to link climate research at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and human health research at Charité, guided by the transdisciplinary concept of Planetary Health and with a focus on nutrition. Current projects are:

  • FAARM – Food and Agricultural Approaches to Reducing Malnutrition
  • FHEED – Food Hygiene to reduce Environmental Enteric Dysfunction
  • NURISHD – NURsing home and hospital food service – Implementation of Healthy and Sustainable Diets

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Climate Change and Health

Climate change, alongside biodiversity loss and other planetary crises, is arguably “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century" (Lancet 2009) because it destroys our living conditions on the planet – through increased storms and floods, heat and drought, harvest failures and famines, infections, conflicts and migration. It hits the poorest particularly hard, thus enhancing existing inequality. Ultimately, it threatens the survival of our civilisation.

Simultaneously, "tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century" (Lancet 2015), because what we need to do for climate stabilization is largely similar to what we should be doing for health. Namely, making cities more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, shutting down coal-fired power plants, adopting agroecological practices for growing food, eating less meat and more vegetables, consuming less and having more time for friends and family. After all, many diseases are caused by air pollution, lack of exercise, unhealthy diets and stress. Thus a win-win situation!

Planetary Health

Planetary Health builds on Public Health and Global Health and goes beyond. While taking social, economic and political determinants of health as well as global interdependence into account, Planetary Health explicitly considers the natural systems of the planet, on which human wellbeing and existence ultimately depend. The long-term goal is: healthy people on a healthy planet.

Our research aims are to contribute to a better understanding of causes and relationships, from the micro level to societal conditions, as well as to evaluate concrete solutions towards climate-resilient, sustainable and healthy food systems. The questions we investigate include but are not limited to the following:

  • How can we leverage agriculture to improve nutrition and health while contributing to climate resilience?
  • What are the impacts of agricultural change on diets and health?
  • What role do intestinal infections, subclinical inflammation and the gut microbiota play in the development of undernutrition?
  • What are the long-term consequences of nutritional and other impacts in utero on the health of the offspring (fetal programming)?