Press release

New global projects seed research into future of human health

Five new research projects have been funded by the Wellcome Trust, each aiming to answer different questions about how our planet can sustain the healthy lives of our growing population, estimated to reach nine billion people by 2050.

The pilot projects, funded under the Wellcome Trust’s Sustaining Health initiative, will investigate the sustainability of the palm oil industry, health in urban areas, malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa, climate-change-resilient diets in India and interventions to improve cardiovascular health in rural China.

The Sustaining Health initiative supports research that connects environment, nutrition and health - an area of increasing global importance that the Wellcome Trust takes a close interest in.

Urbanisation is advancing at an unremitting pace, with the majority of the world's population now living in cities while rural communities are becoming increasingly marginalised. At the same time, there is a global nutrition crisis, with a dual problem of hunger and obesity. Undernutrition threatens the health of millions of the world's poor, while dietary choices and lifestyles are contributing to an unprecedented burden of obesity and chronic diseases. Environmental and climate changes are affecting food security, access to clean water and sanitation, population migration, the incidence of natural disasters, and disease spread.

Research has a critical role to play in meeting these challenges and delivering culturally, socially and economically appropriate solutions.

Ted Bianco, who leads the Sustaining Health initiative at the Wellcome Trust, said: “There are many aspects of our lifestyles for which there are unsubstantiated claims of either a benefit or a risk.

“The future of research that falls at the crossroads of environment, nutrition and health is not in making assumptions or pre-judging. Our aim with Sustaining Health is to ask appropriate questions of the research community in order to look for evidence about what might be the way forward. These pilot projects all have potential to tell us more about the most valuable contribution the Wellcome Trust and other research funders can make to improve health choices in an uncertain world.”

The second Sustaining Health call for pilot projects is open now. Proposals may address any aspect of the interplay between health, environment and nutrition but key is a focus on health. They should also stimulate collaborations and build capacity for interdisciplinary research.