Planetary Health

Professor Karin LederProfessor Jane Fisher AOLeads

Professor Jane Fisher AO and Professor Karin Leder

Planetary Health is emerging as a new discipline to understand and respond to intersecting crises affecting the globe. It is conceptualised as addressing the health of humanity in the context of dynamic social and environmental systems. By combining insights from many disciplines, planetary health promotes an ‘eco-social’ understanding of health and emphasises the importance of diverse perspectives in creating solutions to problems affecting global public health.

The Planetary Health Division houses our environmental and occupational health researchers, infectious disease epidemiologists and many of our global health researchers. They combine strong quantitative research experience and qualitative methods to capture the complete experience of health and healthcare across a number of community and workplace settings both nationally and internationally.

Our environmental and occupational health researchers have a strong legacy in conducting large-scale cohort studies, investigating the health, safety and wellbeing of high-risk workforces and communities affected by toxic exposures. We also have specific expertise in multinational research exploring the intersection between health and environmental problems such as air pollution and climate change. The research team has extensive experience in data linkage studies and plays a leading role in many national and international collaborative networks.

Our infectious diseases research team focuses on the prevention and management of infections, and conducts research into urgent health problems including influenza vaccination, improving water and sanitation management to reduce water-borne and vector-borne disease, travel medicine and immigrant health, and tackling antimicrobial resistance.

Planetary Health team members have played key roles in the Victorian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing high-level advice, managing teams and employing practical skills, as well as contributing to several COVID-19 studies being run across the School.

The health of women and children across the Indo-Pacific region is the key focus for our global health researchers. Their projects focus on a broad range of topics, from fertility to family violence and mental health, with the aim of reducing health inequalities for women and children, and facilitating patient-focussed care.

Our previous research has informed drinking and recycling water and air pollution guidelines, has underpinned updated vaccination policy including in vulnerable patient groups, and generated improvements to prevention programs and better health screening in high risk workplaces.

Research groups

We continue to work on major ongoing projects, including:

  • Leading the Hazelwood Health Study, a flagship project on behalf of the Victorian government to monitor the health impacts of the 2014 Hazelwood open cut brown coal mine fire on local residents and the Gippsland region.
  • Maintaining leadership roles on the University’s RISE program, a cross-faculty project to assess human and environmental impacts of improving water and sanitation management in informal settlements in Asia-Pacific.
  • Leading the COVIC-HA study, exploring the mental and physical health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Victoria’s frontline health workers and carers.
  • Developing a registry to address the recent epidemic of accelerated silicosis in stonemasons using artificial stone.