Nagasaki University’s Approach to Planetary Health

Going Beyond SDGs

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), adopted at the UN Summit in September 2015, are international goals to achieve a sustainable and better world by 2030. The 17 goals and 169 targets that comprise SDGs are universal guidelines for citizens, businesses, governments, organizations, and others to share awareness of problems. Japan is also working actively on SDGs.

While SDGs have become widely known and initiatives are gaining recognition, the actual actions taken have resulted in the emergence of new challenges. In addition, the environment around us is changing very fast, and as the recent COVID-19 pandemic showed us, it only takes one single thing to change something that was once taken for granted. In other words, the actions we need to take change over time. At Nagasaki University, we believe that we have to look beyond SDGs, examine our current situation, and keep looking for new and effective answers so that we can build a better future.

The Nagasaki University Approach to Planetary Health

At Nagasaki University, we define planetary health as “an initiative to seek effective answers (solutions) to continue to support the health of the earth, and to promote a change in our own awareness and behavior.”

Planetary health means the health of the earth it’s ecosystem. Human society is also part of these ecosystem, and this is why thinking about planetary health also means considering our own human health and the activities of our societies. Therefore, it is essential that we work not only from a scientific perspective, but also from a layered array of perspectives that includes those of citizens, businesses, and governments. Considering from multiple perspectives means having a wide variety of approaches. One could say there are many paths that lead to Planetary Health.

Planetary Health is very flexible and full of diversity. Nagasaki University is taking on the challenge of creating and proposing new knowldge for the sake of the earth and future generations, unfettered by the boundaries among specific faculties, specialties, or the university itself. We look for better answers and take a step beyond SDGs. This is what we at Nagasaki University consider Planetary Health.

Why Nagasaki University is taking on the Planetary Health challenge

On January 6, 2020, Nagasaki University declared it would strive to realize Planetary Health.

You may wonder, “Why Nagasaki University?”

The answer is closely connected with Nagasaki University’s roots and a long history that started with a medical training school that was set up in Nagasaki at the end of the Edo period (1603-1868).

During the Edo period, Nagasaki was Japan’s only gateway to the rest of the world, and a variety of diseases and endemic illnesses from remote islands were brought in from overseas.

Since long ago, Nagasaki University has the history and experience of being on the front lines of the fight against unfamiliar infectious diseases.

In modern times as well, Nagasaki University has been ahead of other institutions in expanding the field of infectious disease research to the world, in a profound quest to realize global health.

In particular, through our research and practice in tropical medicine, the University has had occasional experience considering the connections between humans and the environment and the planet as a whole.

The history and nature of the land of Nagasaki have also influenced the University significantly.

We are sincerely concerned about issues such as world peace and discrimination
through our support for the hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombing.

With its coal, shipbuilding, and steel manufacturing industries, Nagasaki was historically one of the centers of Japan’s industrial revolution.

It’s also a place that has brought about a variety of innovations in Japan by actively incorporating culture and science from various countries and coexisting with them.

Nagasaki is also blessed with a divese natural environment that includes many islands, fertile ocean waters, and volcanoes and mountains.

Nagasaki University has been operating for over 150 years in such a location.

It is therefore inevitable that we would aim to become “a university that contributes to planetary health, ”Our taking on the challenge to realize planetary health is a manifestation of our determination to be a starting point of innovation as we set our eyes on the 22nd century.