IUHPE World Health Day statement


Written by Dr. Trevor Hancock, member of the IUHPE Global Working Group on Waiora Planetary Health and Human Wellbeing.


Our Planet, Our Health, Our Health Promotion Task 

Today, April 7th,  we join people around the world in celebrating  World Health Day, marking the 74th anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO). This year WHO has chosen the theme of ‘Our Planet, Our Health’, in order to “focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being.” 


This reflects a growing global concern about what we are doing to the Earth, and what that means for the well-being of humanity – and the wellbeing, indeed the very survival in many cases,  of all the other species with whom we share the Earth. Our actions were summed up bluntly and succinctly by Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, in December 2020: “Humanity is waging war on nature . . . this is suicidal.”


On its World Health Day 2022 website, the WHO is equally clear and blunt:

“WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. This includes the climate crisis which is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. The climate crisis is also a health crisis.”


The IUHPE has recognised the importance of planetary health for some years. The theme for our 2019 Global Conference on Health Promotion, held in Rotorua, Aotearoa New Zealand, was ‘WAIORA: Promoting Planetary Health and Sustainable Development for All’.


Reflecting the important role of the Maori people as co-hosts of the conference, there was a strong emphasis on Indigenous perspectives and knowledge throughout the conference. This was also reflected in the use of the Maori word ‘Waiora’ in the title; the word “means water in its purest, life-giving form” but “is linked more specifically to the natural world and includes a spiritual element that connects human wellness with cosmic, terrestrial and water environments. It is a call to share knowledge from our diverse cultural systems for the wellbeing of the planet and humanity.”


In the Conference Statement

“participants call on the global community to urgently act to promote planetary health and sustainable development for all, now and for the sake of future generations”,

while the Indigenous Peoples’ Statement noted:

“We call on the health promotion community and the wider global community to make space for and privilege Indigenous peoples’ voices and Indigenous knowledges in taking action with us to promote the health of Mother Earth and sustainable development for the benefit of all.”


One result of the conference was the creation of the IUHPE Global Working Group on Waiora Planetary Health and Human Wellbeing (Waiora GWG). The GWG is helping IUHPE and the health promotion field focus on planetary health, and to recognise and pay attention to Indigenous peoples’ voices and Indigenous knowledges in working to protect and heal Mother Earth and promote the wellbeing of people and the myriad species with whom we share this small planet that is our one and only home.


Thus IUHPE strongly supports the theme of ‘Our Planet, Our Health’, having made planetary health part of our strategic priorities for its 2021 – 2026 Strategic Plan. IUHPE is determined to enhance a planetary consciousness in health promotion, and to incorporate an eco-social understanding of planetary health and human wellbeing into health promotion, making it transformative and more effective.


We strongly encourage the health promotion field, and indeed governments and societies as a whole, to embrace the concept of planetary health and to heed WHO’s call in the Geneva Charter to create Well-being societies that  are “committed to achieving equitable health now and for future generations without breaching ecological limits”.


IUHPE is convinced planetary health is central to health promotion policy and practice in the 21st century, and that it must become a core subject not only in the education and training of health promotion practitioners but all health prtactitioners. And it must be linked to the social determinants of health, recognising both that social values drive social and economic development and thus ecological change, but that social and ecological injustice co-exist and must be addressed together.


Finally, IUHPE encourages health promoters and other health professionals around the world to take the Planetary Health Pledge. A shortened version, based on the Pledge in the Lancet in 2020, has been developed by Doctors for Planetary Health – West Coast. They suggest making a video of yourself taking the pledge - alone or together with colleagues, - and posting it to social media, with the hashtags #PlanetaryHealthPledge  #HealthierTomorrow  #ClimateJustice  #OneHealth  #ActNow



Further reading

  • Tuitahi, Sione; Watson, Huti; Egan, Richard, Parkes, Margot and Hancock, Trevor (2021) Waiora: The importance of Indigenous worldviews and spirituality to inspire and inform Planetary Health Promotion in the Anthropocene. Global Health Promotion 28(4): 73 –82 (Special supplement for the IUHPE 2022 Conference, Montreal, on behalf of the IUHPE’s Global Working Group on Waiora Planetary Health) https://doi.org/10.1177/1757975921106226 


  • Hancock, Trevor (2021) Towards Healthy One Planet Cities and Communities: Planetary Health Promotion at the Local Level Health Promo Int’l 36(Supp 1): i53–i63 (Special supplement for the WHO Global Health Promotion Conference, Dubai, on behalf of the IUHPE’s Global Working Group on Waiora Planetary Health) https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daab120


Useful links

  • World Health Day 2022 - Our planet, our health


  • WHO - What can you do to protect our planet and our health?


  • WAIORA: Promoting Planetary Health and Sustainable Development for All (Rotorua Statement)


  • Waiora – Indigenous Peoples’ Statement for Planetary Health and Sustainable Development


  • IUHPE Strategic Plan: 2021-2026


  • Planetary Health Alliance