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Marking a landmark policy symposium, with a collective focus on planetary health equity

Croakey is closed for summer holidays and will resume publishing in the week of 15 January 2024. In the meantime, we are re-publishing some of our top articles from 2023.

This article was first published on Tuesday, September 12, 2023


Introduction by Croakey: More than 500 people are registered to attend the Planetary Health Equity Hothouse inaugural annual policy symposium, ‘Extinction thwarted? The nexus between climate change, social equity and health’, at the Australian National University in Canberra tomorrow (Wednesday, 13 September).

Alison Barrett will tweet the discussions for the Croakey Conference News Service from @CroakeyNews, and you can also follow the hashtag on Twitter, #HothouseSymposium.

The symposium addresses three major, interconnected challenges – climate change, social inequality and premature death and disease.

“Governance approaches to date have failed to address these problems, and in many cases have made the situation worse by approaching these issues and their common drivers in isolation from each other,” according to the symposium program.

“For a governance response to be commensurate with the challenges faced by society, a more holistic approach is needed that brings disciplines and sectors together, and recognises the importance of addressing the common structural drivers of planetary health inequity.”

Hosted by Professor Sharon Friel, Director of the Planetary Health Equity Hothouse, with opening remarks from ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian P. Schmidt AC, and Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney, attendees will hear government, non-government and academic experts discuss the political, economic, and social dimensions of planetary health equity.

The symposium aims to identify the how to create systemic transformation to enable the equitable enjoyment of good health for all within the context of a stable, sustainable ecosystem, and shift governance practices toward a more effective modern paradigm. It comprises four sessions: Setting the Scene; Follow the Money; Advancing Progressive Policy, and Thwarting Extinction: Making it Happen.

A taster of some of the discussions follows below, thanks to a tag-team of guest tweeters who covered a Future Leaders Program hosted by the Hothouse last week. They were tweeting via Croakey’s rotated Twitter account @WePublicHealth.


A collaborative, collective tweeting effort

This webinar recording is a great way to get up to speed on the background of the @PHEHothouse body of research.

I said in my intro that I am a researcher (though I have many other identities). But with my researcher hat on, @SharonFrielOz is asking us to think about ‘research, for what purpose?’.

I’m motivated by the potential for research to inform action and have social impact.

Around the room, we had a passionate discussion about whether we do research for academic esteem, and what that even means.

What is knowledge? And what forms of knowledge are valued, and seen as valid? In the Western research/science world, value and validity is often given to types or research higher up the ‘hierarchy of evidence’, with randomised-control trials at the top.

So far today, we’ve had a lively discussion about knowledge. Knowledge systems (for example, Indigenous, Western, non-Western). In my world, there is usually (always?) a dominance of Western knowledge.

Am passing over this afternoon to @DrCGodziewski and @edjegasothy.

Hi everyone, @edjegasothy here! I’m tweeting with @DrCGodziewski on this afternoon’s session. I’m an environmental epidemiologist who is really interested in how to address socioeconomic inequalities.

Hi – @DrCGodziewski here. Along with @edjegasothy, I’ll be tweeting from the @PHEHothouse Future Leaders Program. Exciting discussion this afternoon: pathologies of 21st century capitalism with Prof Susan Sell from @ANURegNet.

What an enlightening presentation and discussion on the political economic dynamics leading to erosion of labour right and extreme concentration of power and wealth.

We’re getting a very accessible insight into the last 100 years of capitalism, and our financial systems and governance. This is fantastic for someone who is otherwise pretty economically illiterate. These are the fundamental sources of health inequity.

There was an erosion of the relative value of production itself and increase in value of IP and other non-production components through protective regulation and corporate practices. This meant a widening of inequalities and devaluing of “blue collar” labour.

“Embedded liberalism” rose from the post WWII recovery. The transition from this to neoliberalism meant that corporate governance moved away from inherent social responsibility to prioritising shareholder value. This is enshrined now in legislation.

I was curious about what changed in terms of the motivation/incentives. It seems that there while previously there was a responsibility to workers and society, this had changed to the shareholder in many neoliberal economies.

The example of Germany was given by @DrCGodziewski as an exception, where corporate governance still prioritises involvement of workers as key stakeholders. Prof Sell noted that this was under stress.

The question that remains for me is what are the drivers that appear to push towards this prioritisation of profits? Or what was the cause of this diffuse power and the prioritisation of workers and social licence in the past?

The labor movement can take credit? but where did its power in numbers come from? Was it just the massive shock of WWII? I’m any case, despite progress in that time we still saw many countries and people left behind and exploited.

Was the more equal moment (within the west perhaps) of the post-war period just an aberration?

The point of action now is to prevent massive impacts on societies and the environment and correct injustices. We need leadership in the absence of political necessity. But how do we get that kind of leadership?

Systems thinking requires us to think about how the problem has been changing over time. Our group picked “consumption of goods” and “income inequality” as two of the factors driving the problems of planetary health equity.

Thanks for capturing the great discussion on systems thinking this morning, Sarah! I’m Belle Workman, researching how we develop healthier climate and energy policies. This afternoon we’ll cover governance with Christian Downie. Stay tuned!

How we can study global governance: identify the literature gaps (who are the actors?), then the research questions, design and methods. @DownieChristian

External events (e.g. environmental shocks) and/or internal events (for example, multiple sources of authority) can lead to the rearrangements of global rules.


The afternoon will be @SharonFrielOz on the Commercial Determinants of planetary health equity, with with commentary from @c_hunnisett of @Healthy_climate and Sandra Samantela from @UPLBOfficial.

Tomorrow, for Day 4 of the Future Leaders Program, we start with @ktrebeck on the economics of arrival.

@meganamarthur@PHEHothouse Research Fellow – and @BettyWemimo of @WesternILUniv – will be sharing their reflections throughout the morning.

This morning we are having an interactive conversation with Katherine Trebeck about the economics of arrival that drives global inequalities.

A highlight: fail