University of Technology Sydney

090019 Planetary Health

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2021 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 3 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


Human activity is rapidly changing the structure and function of the Earth’s natural systems in a way that presents significant risks to human health. Disruption to the ecosystems on which human health depends includes biodiversity loss, climate change, fresh water depletion, deforestation, and urban development. The public health community is inadequately prepared to address the challenges of a rapidly changing environment and the significant impacts on human health. These health impacts include increases in heat related deaths, infectious disease, malnutrition, psychological distress and trauma, and pollution related illnesses. These health impacts are amplified in disadvantaged communities that are less able to adapt to environmental challenges. Planetary health builds on ecological public health principles broadening the definition of health to include human civilisation, recognising that human health is dependent on the health of the environment on which it depends.

This subject introduces students to the concept of planetary health and related research, policy and practice issues. Students consider the challenges and opportunities for public and population health from a planetary health perspective at both a global and local level. Students also examine the need for public health professionals to use knowledge, technology and policy in novel ways to address environmental and health challenges that are characterised by surprise and uncertainty.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Describe and discuss the concept of planetary health, the direct and indirect pathways that connect human health and ecosystems, and how they relate to the sustainable development goals.
B. Critically assess the impacts of environmental change on intergenerational health equity, vulnerability and resilience, and how these relate to environmental justice and ecological sustainability with consideration of Australian Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.
C. Critically appraise the role of public health practitioners and the broader health care system in addressing planetary health challenges and opportunities.
D. Identify the complex systems involved in environmental change and human health outcomes and priority areas for intervention.
E. Develop practical interventions that provide co-benefits for human and environmental health with consideration of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches.

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject is designed to be interactive, using a combination of readings and student-centred activities that will include critical analysis, discussion, scenario development, and problem solving. Students will be provided with engaging learning activities to deepen their understanding of concepts related to Planetary Health. Students are expected to work independently and to engage with other students online through discussion forums and other interactive activities, such as Zoom meetings, for which they will have to prepare in advance.

Content (topics)

  • What is planetary health? Key concepts and historical developments in planetary health.
  • Health consequences of global warming.
  • Urbanisation and public health.
  • Effects of environmental change on food systems.
  • Impact of pollution on planetary and public health.
  • Global environmental change and risk for non-communicable and infectious diseases


Assessment task 1: Annotated bibliography


This contributes to learning by assisting students to investigate current trends and/or issues related to planetary health. The assessment provides an opportunity for students to consider the accuracy and quality of the sources and relevance to their practice.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A and B

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.1, 1.2 and 5.0

Type: Annotated bibliography
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 40%

2 x 300 words.

Assessment task 2: Essay


This assessment enables students to develop skills in analysing a planetary health issue in a national context and in developing appropriate strategies to address it with appropriate stakeholders.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C and D

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 2.3, 4.2 and 5.0

Type: Essay
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 60%

2,000 words

Required texts

Myers, S., & Frumkin, H. (eds) (2020). Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves. Island Press.

Recommended texts

Al-Delaimy, W., Ramanathan, V., & Sánchez Sorondo, M. (eds) (2020). Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility: Climate Change, Air Pollution and Health. Springer.

Cole, J. (2019). Planetary Health: Human Health in an Era of Global Environmental Change. CABI.

Whitmee, S., Haines, A., Beyrer, C., Boltz, F., Capon, A.G., de Souza Dias, B.F., Ezeh, A., Frumkin, H., Gong, P., Head, P., Horton, R., Mace, G.M., Marten, R., Myers, S.S., Nishtar, S., Osofsky, S.A., Pattanayak, S.K., Pongsiri, M.J., Romanelli, C., Soucat, A., Vega, J. & Yach, D. (2015). Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch: report of The Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on planetary health. The Lancet, 386(10007), 1973-2028.

Other resources

UTS Student Centre
Building 10

Monday to Friday: 9am - 5pm
Tel: 1300 ASK UTS (1300 275 887)

Details for student centres:

For other resources/ information refer to the Faculty of Health website ( and UTSOnline at:

UTS Library
The Library has a wide range of resources, facilities and services to support you including textbooks, subject readings, health literature databases, workshops and bookable study rooms. There is also a team of librarians to help you with your questions available via online chat, phone and in person. W:, Facebook: utslibrary, Twitter: @utslibrary Tel: (02) 9514 3666.

Improve your academic and English language skills
Marks for all assessment tasks such as assignments and examinations are given not only for what you write but also for how you write. If you would like the opportunity to improve your academic and English language skills, make an appointment with the HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support) Service in Student Services.

HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support)
HELPS provides assistance with English language proficiency and academic language. Students who need to develop their written and/or spoken English should make use of the free services offered by HELPS, including academic language workshops, vacation intensive courses, drop-in consultations, individual appointments and Conversations@UTS ( HELPS staff are also available for drop-in consultations at the UTS Library. Phone (02) 9514 9733.

Please see for additional information on other resources provided to students by UTS.