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Governance for health in the Anthropocene

Trevor Hancock (School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada)
Anthony G. Capon (International Institute for Global Health, United Nations University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Uta Dietrich (International Institute for Global Health, United Nations University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Rebecca Anne Patrick (School of Health & Social Development, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Health Governance

ISSN: 2059-4631

Article publication date: 5 December 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore the pressing issues facing health and health systems governance in the Anthropocene – a new geological time period that marks the age of colossal and rapid human impacts on Earth’s systems.


The viewpoint illustrates the extent of various human induced global ecological changes such as climate change and biodiversity loss and explores the social forces behind the new epoch. It draws together current scientific evidence and expert opinion on the Anthropocene’s health and health system impacts and warns that many these are yet unknown and likely to interact and compound each other.


Despite this uncertainty, health systems have four essential roles in the Anthropocene from adapting operations and preparing for future challenges to reducing their own contribution to global ecological changes and an advocacy role for social and economic changes for a healthier and more sustainable future.

Practical implications

To live up to this challenge, health services will need to expand from a focus on health governance to one on governance for health with a purpose of achieving equitable and sustainable human development.


As cities and local governments work to create more healthy, just and sustainable communities in the years ahead, health systems need to join with them as partners in that process, both as advocates and supporters and – through their own action within the health sector – as leading proponents and models of good practice.



The authors would like to acknowledge Dr Andrew Kiyu, Consultant Epidemiologist, Kuching, Malaysia for his comments.


Hancock, T., Capon, A.G., Dietrich, U. and Patrick, R.A. (2016), "Governance for health in the Anthropocene", International Journal of Health Governance, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 245-262.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Trevor Hancock, Tony Capon, Uta Dietrich and Rebecca Patrick

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