Celebrating World Health Day 2022: "Our Planet, Our Health"

Public-health innovators who prioritize our world, our health and the well-being of our societies

Shirley Wilfong-Pritchard - 7 April 2022

World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health. This year’s theme is “Our Planet, Our Health.” WHO is focusing global attention on urgent actions needed to keep people and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being.

The University of Alberta’s School of Public Health is committed to improving the human and planetary condition. In the face of climate and economic change, the school drives multisectoral, community-engaged research where health, the environment, society and sustainability meet.

The climate crisis is a health crisis. Canada is warming about twice as fast as the global average—even more so in the North. Impacts are already being felt—coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, shifting ice, ecosystem changes, worsening heat waves, droughts, floods and wildfires, risks to critical infrastructure and impacts to food and water supplies.

A changing climate is a public-health issue. It affects people’s environment and impacts their physical and mental health and well-being, particularly in vulnerable populations here in Canada and around the world.

The following are some examples of ways the School of Public Health is taking action to protect the Earth, the health of its inhabitants and the well-being of societies.

Sherilee Harper
New graduate program in climate change and health
Public health researcher and lead author on the latest global report on climate change, Sherilee Harper is a driving force behind a new graduate certificate program that will prepare students to seek solutions to a challenge affecting all aspects of society.

Northern Canada
Researcher brings local voices, and experiences, into international climate change policy

Poor health outcomes from climate change disproportionately affect vulnerable populations. Sherilee Harper’s research team, the Climate Change & Global Health Research Group, is working to change that.

Melting ice
Climate change and Inuit health priorities
Co-authored by associate professor Sherilee Harper, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change and Health, the publication explores the key risks of climate change on Inuit health and how to address them.

Kimberly Fairman
Public health grad uses community-based research to improve health of northerners
Kimberly Fairman, executive director of the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research (ICHR) is helping to revolutionize the way public-health policy is developed in Northern Canada.

Candace Nykiforuk
Collaborative research helps communities reach their healthiest potential

Professor and associate dean Candace Nykiforuk is director of the Centre for Healthy Communities. The centre tackles complex social problems that impact health equity and the health of environments, municipalities, schools and Indigenous communities.

Patrick Hanington
Containment, not eradication, key to managing invasive species in Alberta lake: study

Invasive species are a leading cause of degraded aquatic ecosystems and can spread disease to other organisms, including humans. Associate professor Patrick Hanington’s research helps yield critical information on Chinese mystery snails.

Randal Bell
University of Alberta graduate students press for clean water in all Indigenous communities

The well-being of society includes equitable access to the basics—such as safe, clean drinking water. Randal Bell and Student Advocates for Public Health (SAPH) are trying to do something about it.

Zubia Mumtaz
Overcoming barriers to maternal health service
Professor Zubia Mumtaz works with the Canadian Association for Global Health. Her research focuses on social determinants of maternal health in the global context, looking at how factors such as gender, class and caste influence health.

Shelby Yamamoto

Susan Chatwood
Addressing unique health challenges of northern communities
Associate professor Susan Chatwood of ICHR focuses on the systems that address determinants of health in the Arctic, including climate change, Indigenous values and geographical challenges.

Simon Otto
Human-Environment-Animal Transdisciplinary Antimicrobial Resistance Research Group (HEAT)
Assistant professor Simon Otto is a veterinary epidemiologist. Leading the research group at HEAT, he works on antimicrobial resistance and foodborne disease.

Stephanie Montesanti
Imagine Citizens Network (ICN)
Associate professor Stephanie Montesanti is a founding member of ICN and scientist with the Centre for Healthy Communities. She focuses on understanding chronic disease and health inequities in Indigenous and other underserved populations.

Stephen Hodgins
Nurses and midwives key to achieving health targets in low- and middle-income countries
Associate professor Stephen Hodgins' research addresses real-world challenges of delivering programs to improve population health in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. He is editor-in-chief of the journal Global Health: Science & Practice.

Stephanie Yanow
Discovery may lead to more effective malaria vaccine
A major focus of professor Stephanie Yanow’s work is on the interactions between malaria parasites of different species and the host immune system, particularly during infection in pregnancy.

Denise Spitzer
Denise Spitzer
A critical feminist medical anthropologist, professor Spitzer’s research focuses on the impact of the global economy on immigrants, migrants and refugees in different parts of the globe—most notably Southeast and East Asia, Canada and the Horn of Africa.