'One Health, One Planet' symposium at Phipps to explore environmental impact on human health
Dr. Richard Jackson, a professor of UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health, worries about the state of children's health and their prospects for the future.
“When I was young pediatrician, I never saw children with type 2 diabetes. It's now more common in children than adults,” he says. “We're seeing kids who are 10, 15 and 20 years old with diseases of 50, 60 and 70-year-olds because of obesity and lack of fitness.”
He cites a few sobering national health statistics:
• People born after 1980 are three to four times more likely to be obese than previous generations.
• Adults are 25 pounds heavier on average from 30 years ago; average 14-year-olds are 14 pounds heavier.
• The current generation is the first in American history to have a shorter life span than their parents.
“More and more of my physician friends feel like they're sitting at the end of the disease pipeline, trying to patch up the casualties of a lifestyle that's really doing serious harm,” Jackson says. “We are subtracting years of life from our children because of the chronic diseases of obesity, asthma and diabetes.”
Jackson, former director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health and host of the PBS series “Designing Healthy Communities,” will be the keynote speaker at “One Health, One Planet,” a symposium hosted by Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens that brings together local experts in multiple disciplines to discuss important issues related to health.
The program will address environmental issues and their effects on human and animal health, healthy ecosystems and their link to healthy communities, and how to find inspiration in nature to promote health and improve the places where people live, work, learn and play.
Richard Piacentini, executive director at Phipps, says he approached Dr. Michael Lotze, vice chairman of research, department of surgery and assistant vice chancellor, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, last fall about organizing a symposium to deal with environmental issues focused on the connection between human health and the environment.
Piacentini and Lotze discussed the importance of “One Health” — a worldwide movement to encourage collaborative efforts to achieve the best health for people, animals and the environment — as a result of the university's “Science 2015” annual symposium that included an effort to unite local community leaders in the initiative.
Through a partnership between One Health and Phipps' Research Institute for Biophilia and Science Engagement, Piacentini says they agreed to unite experts from different fields around the shared goals of focusing on environmental issues, disease prevention and improving health.
One of the speakers at the Pitt program was Dr. Donald Burke, dean and associate vice chancellor for global health at the university's Graduate School of Public Health, who has done extensive research on the origins and the transmission of diseases such as HIV, SARS, West Nile virus and Lyme disease from animals to humans.
“Richard brought the notion of biophilia, a hypothesis that suggests there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems,” Lotze says. “We had hoped to launch a program focusing on our living, working and educating spaces that would allow us to broaden this notion of One Health and emphasize the interconnectedness of these elements for our well-being and happiness.”
Burke, Lotze and Piacentini will be among the speakers at Phipps' “One Health, One Planet” symposium.
Burke says the region still has some work to do to improve its outlook for healthier communities.
“The state of our health in Allegheny County has not been very good,” he says. The region's life expectancy of about 79 years for males, 83 for females, is one of the lower statistics for large urban areas. He is hopeful the numbers will improve through dialogues — such as those at the Phipps symposium — and actions that focus on improving social services and encouraging healthy behaviors.
“We've had so many discussions about health care payments but little about the bottom line,” Burke says. “We need more discussion at a population level about living longer and better.”
Lotze says that much progress has been made in areas such as immunology applied to cancer, solid organ transplantation, joint replacement, cardiac rehabilitation and screening that have made aging individuals' lives better.
Going forward, future challenges will include how to assure that people's values and sense of well-being in the world will be secured.
“We are hoping that emergent from this conference will be action items for our community, but also an annual nationally focused meeting that could serve to bring disparate elements and individuals together to focus on our values and aspirational goals to live in greater harmony and with greater health,” Lotze says.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
On environmental issues and effects on human health
• Dr. Donald Burke, dean and associate vice chancellor for global health, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
• Dr. Mary Beth Mannarino, associate professor in graduate psychology, Chatham University
• Dr. Michael Lotze, vice Chairman of research, department of surgery and assistant vice chancellor, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
• Dr. Michael Parkinson, senior medical director of health and productivity, UPMC
On environmental issues and effects on animal health
• Dr. Val Beasley, professor of veterinary, wildlife, and ecological toxicology, Pennsylvania State University
• Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, director of animal health, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
• Dr. Corinne Richards-Zawacki, associate professor of biology and PLE director, Pitt
• Dr. Chris Mullin, professor of entomology, Penn State
On healthy ecosystems, healthy communities
• Julia Africa, program leader, Nature, Health and the Built Environment, Harvard School of Public Health
• Dr. John Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education and professor of environmental microbiology, Duquesne University
• Dr. Peter Adams, professor of civil and environmental engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
• Richard Piacentini, executive director, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
On finding inspiration in nature to promote health and improve the places where we live, work, learn and play
• Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director, Women for a Healthy Environment
• Jessica Cooper, executive vice president and director of sustainability, Delos Solutions
• Sonja Bochart, principal, Shepley Bulfinch
• Vivian Loftness, professor of architecture, Carnegie Mellon University