Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 418–429 | Cite as

Planetary Epidemiology: Towards First Principles

  • Colin D. ButlerEmail author
Global Environmental Health and Sustainability (W Al-Delaimy, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Global Environmental Health and Sustainability


Purpose of Review

To combine evolutionary principles of competition and co-operation with limits to growth models, generating six principles for a new sub-discipline, called “planetary epidemiology.” Suggestions are made for how to quantify four principles.

Recent Findings

Climate change is one of a suite of threats increasingly being re-discovered by health workers as a major threat to civilization. Although “planetary health” is now in vogue, neither it nor its allied sub-disciplines have, as yet, had significant impact on epidemiology. Few if any theorists have sought to develop principles for Earth system human epidemiology, in its ecological, social, and technological milieu.


The principles of planetary epidemiology described here can be used to stimulate applied, quantitative work to explore past, contemporary, and future population health, at scales from local to planetary, in order to promote enduring health. It is also proposed that global well-being will decline this century, without radical reform.


Earth system Environmental epidemiology Global health Limits to growth Planetary boundaries Planetary health 



I thank Emeritus Professor Colin Soskolne, two reviewers, and the editor for their helpful comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that there are no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

40572_2018_220_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Research InstituteUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Campus Visitor, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population HealthAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Principal Research Fellow, College of Arts, Humanities & Social SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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