Cristina Azevedo (Fiocruz News Agency)
With Fiocruz among the signatories, it was launched this Wednesday (October 6), the São Paulo Declaration on Planetary Health, an initiative of Planetary Health Alliance and the University of São Paulo, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The declaration is considered the first document of the global planetary health community to describe the actions needed to achieve what it calls "the great transition: a just transformation to a world that optimizes the health and all people and the planet's well-being".
Published on Wednesday in the scientific journal The Lancet, in the run-up to the COP-15 biodiversity summit and the COP-26 climate change negotiations, the document has received the endorsement of more than 260 organizations from 47 countries, representing 19 sectors of society, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-International), the American Public Health Association, the Brazilian Academy of Science, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Fiocruz, among others. The expectation is that membership will increase now that it has been published.
"The declaration comes at a critical moment, when our biodiversity faces unprecedented pressure. It calls for governments, the private sector, civil society and the public to commit to the great transition", said Achim Steiner, head of UNDP, at the declaration launch, broadcast over the Internet. "This is the first time the planetary health community has come together with one voice."
Savannas as natural pharmacies
The São Paulo Declaration was produced during the Planetary Health 2021 Annual Meeting, which took place from April 25 to 30 in São Paulo, and concluded after a consultation with nearly 350 participants from over 70 countries. One of its organizers, Antonio Mauro Saraiva, professor at USP's Polytechnic School, recalled that the declaration was designed to be as inclusive as possible: "Since the first discussions in 2019, the global situation has gotten much worse", he said, recalling the climate change effects and the pandemic. "It encourages everyone to play a role, to see how each individual or group can contribute to this great transition."
Also at the launch, Sam Myers, the Planetary Health Alliance director, stressed the need for profound change to restore and regenerate the natural systems on which we depend. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, president of the Association of Women and Indigenous Peoples of Chad, pointed out that as we destroy the savannas, we are also destroying "the supermarkets where we get our food and the pharmacies where we get our medicine. Businessman Paul Polman, coauthor of Net Positive: how courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take, argued that the economy and business sustainability must be related to society and nature well-being, emphasizing it as a moral imperative.
Donald Li, president of the World Organization of Family Doctors (Wonca), recalled that doctors are the first to see the impact of environmental degradation on human health. And Nicole de Paula, executive director of the Women Leaders for Planetary Health, stressed the need to have "smart budgets", with public resources spent "on what really matters" and to fight inequalities.
Fiocruz in the statement
The event also highlighted initiatives in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Sudan. In a video, signatories from several countries told why they adhered to the document or what they have been doing. "We have been working to emphasize the sustainable development importance both environmentally and socially," said Nísia Trindade Lima, Fiocruz president.
The São Paulo Declaration outlines concrete actions for different sectors, including health professionals, with recommendations such as drawing on indigenous peoples' knowledge practices, considering social and environmental determinants in health, and advocating for public access to health services.
"The health professional, when the patient arrives, doesn't make the link with the issue of nature, the environmental resources, the context in which this individual or this family lives. It is necessary to know the territory. The conditions in which a person lives will reflect on his or her health. Planetary health brings this", explained Sandra Hacon, a researcher in Public Health and Environment at the National School of Public Health Sergio Arouca (Ensp/Fiocruz) and who accompanied the São Paulo Declaration process.
Sandra told that Fiocruz had been participating since 2019. "It involves all class movements, artists, traditional communities. It implies that we reevaluate actions not only at a global level, but also at a local level, because if you don't change at a local level, what you do will not have a global resonance. And we need this resonance", she said.