Our Planet, Our Health: responding to a changing world

Our planet is changing in ways that are unprecedented in human history, and which directly threaten human health. But these changes also bring opportunities to protect and improve health – if we can understand them and respond appropriately.

What we want to achieve 

What is planetary health? Watch our animation to find out more.

Since 2015, we've supported a community of researchers who are taking on the challenges that food systems, increasing urbanisation and climate change pose to our health. We aim to stimulate research excellence and develop global collaborations to drive change.

If we're successful, the research we fund will provide strong evidence for action, which will lead policymakers, businesses and the public to make more informed decisions on things that affect the environment and health.

The areas we're focusing on 

Climate change 

Acting on climate change requires both primary prevention (ie reducing its effects on health – also known as mitigation), and preparedness and response (ie adapting to its impact – also known as adaptation).

These responses must be designed and implemented to protect health as best we can, while also improving social equity. To do this, we'll need robust scientific evidence, and translation of that evidence in to policy and action.

We recently offered funding through the Climate Change and Health Awards for researchers who want to better understand the links between climate change and people’s health. Find out more about the grants we awarded.

We've also:

  • funded a number of other projects to understand how climate change is affecting the health of different populations around the world
  • partnered with the Lancet to set up the Lancet Countdown, an international research collaboration that tracks global progress on climate change. 

Global food systems

With the world's population growing, current ways of producing food are unsustainable. And what we eat is also leading to problems: over- and undernutrition are major causes of illness around the world.

Wellcome is a founding partner of the EAT Foundation, which brings together scientists, businesses and policy makers to transform food systems and feed the world's growing population. We've also invested £10.3 million in two research partnerships looking at how to create healthier food systems. 

Urban environments

As urban populations grow, so do rates of infectious disease, drug resistance, pollution and waste. But rapid urban growth also creates an opportunity: the chance to build a healthier living environment.

We've invested £17.8 million in research looking at how urban design and policy can improve health. Our research partnerships are investigating what makes cities healthy and environmentally sustainable, and how water management can be built into urban design. 

Why it's important

  • The world will need to produce 60 per cent more food by 2050 if current trends in diets and population growth continue.
  • Over half the world's population now lives in cities. This is expected to increase to two-thirds by 2050.
  • By 2050, it's predicted that climate change will cause 250,000 deaths a year. 

Our team 

See everyone who's in the climate and health team.