A Travel Scholar Reflection by Mr. Kamowatimwa

Mr. Gabriel Kamowatimwa is a Global Health Corps Fellow with Dignitas International, working as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer

I was really honored and humbled to be given the chance to attend the Planetary Health second annual planning meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland. Planetary Health! For which planet? Mars? Those were some of the weird questions I got when I told people back home that I was going to attend this meeting. Not that I blame them because in Malawi this new discipline of looking at health is relatively new and news to most people. This was the main reason I was really thrilled to be part of young motivated professions, scholars and leaders to be awarded the travel scholarship to attend the meeting. Before the meeting I did my homework by reading materials and watching videos from the previous planetary health meeting in Boston to understand in-depth the concept of planetary health. From all that homework I understood planetary health as “the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends.”

Fast forward to the meeting I really appreciated the importance and the of planetary health after watching The Albatross’ — a moving portrayal of the effects of ocean plastic pollution. The effects of plastic pollution on albatross chicks shown in the movie was a strong call to action for me to contribute to repairing our world broken relationship with planet Earth. Throughout the meeting this point was validated by the presentations, panel sessions and all the discussion. I personally learned a lot from the conference and I will always cherish and share the knowledge acquired. The key things that stood out the most for me and will definitely lead my knowledge transfer back home were on: food and nutrition and the environment, mental/NCDs impacts of environmental change and the co-Benefits of Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Preparedness.

Taking this knowledge home, I will focus on engaging in policy advocacy aimed at informing senior politicians and administrators how disregarding issues of Planetary Health will impact global environmental change, and outline actions to take to improve laws and policies on environmental maintenance and preservation. Furthermore, I will be engaging in program advocacy targeting opinion and local leaders at the community level on the need for local action towards balancing human needs with the preservation of the Earth to sustain the health and well-being of future generations. This is because I feel I can help make great impact at the community level by influencing the local leaders to mobilize their people to take local action. Finally, I will engage in media advocacy to validate the relevance of an advocacy based approach to Planetary Health and help putting these issues on the public agenda, and encourage the media to cover the global health impacts of accelerating climatic disruption, land degradation, growing water scarcity, fisheries degradation, biodiversity loss, pollution and related topics regularly and in a responsible manner so as to raise awareness of possible solutions.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Planetary Health Alliance or its members.

Generating better understanding of the links between accelerating global environmental change and human health to support policy making and public education