Protect humanity, protect the planet: A campaign connecting global health policy to climate change

Donald Sandmann

Sep 27, 2021

Protect humanity, protect the planet: A campaign connecting global health policy to climate change

Health policy and climate protection dominate the global political agenda. However, they are mostly addressed as two separate challenges. A new campaign from Healthy Planet – Healthy People (GEGM) is attempting to highlight to the public how human and planetary health are connected with other societal values – both in Germany and worldwide. In connecting these issues in public consciousness, GEGM hopes to demonstrate to the government and other institutions that such an integrated approach can be effective.

Climate change: The biggest threat to human health

One of the pandemic’s many side effects is the sudden prominence of health policy on all political levels. COVID-19 has already demonstrated our shortcomings in tackling global threats to human well-being and opened a window of opportunity for decisive political action. But despite their efforts and promises, governments have systematically put national interests before the benefit of all, and also neglected the biggest threat of the 21st century to human health: climate change.

The environment, functioning ecosystems, and biodiversity are the foundation for our well-being. To lead healthy lives, we need breathable air, clean water, and stable temperatures. We can already observe the adverse health impacts of climate change: An increase in extreme weather events threaten human lives and their livelihoods, droughts and degrading soil lead to rising hunger and malnutrition, and heat waves kill more and more people each year worldwide. The list goes on and on.

Climate protection is health protection

We at “Healthy Planet – Healthy People” (GEGM) aim to communicate the interdependence of planetary and human health by focusing on a simple and solution-oriented narrative and by incorporating new and trusted multipliers in our activities, such as health professionals, known experts and public personalities.

'The issues our audience care about are also connected to human health.

2021 is a decisive year for German politics: General elections and multiple state elections will determine Germany’s political agenda for the coming years in a crucial decade to ensure sustainable development for the planet and humanity. Our campaign was launched in May with the Instagram format “WHAT IF…? Around the world in 80 questions” and will last until the German federal elections in September. We have two main goals: informing a diverse, young and politically interested audience on how planetary and human health are connected, and thereby urging political decision-makers to prioritize an integrated approach to climate action and health policy.

What if…? A thought experiment for everyone

With “What If..? In 80 questions around the world,” we have gathered six influential personalities on Instagram, who ask questions on different topics via Instagram Stories. We want to find out how issues such as education, women’s empowerment, inclusion, equality and climate action affect (global) health. The questions are sent to individuals and experts from all over the world to include as many perspectives as possible.

The key message is: The issues our audience care about are also connected to human health – not only in Germany but worldwide! The back and forth with questions, answers, and tangible examples from all over the world demonstrate to the audience that (global) health is relevant to people here in Germany. This creates a low-threshold entry point for engagement to a global challenge. For example, what if children were involved in all political decisions? This question was asked by Eckart von Hirschhausen and answered by a German politician from the Christian Social Union, a journalist and moderator, a young Fridays for Future activist, and a UNICEF program specialist from Malawi. Collectively, but each in their own way, they pointed out how children are the most affected by crucial political decisions and should therefore be included in the decision-making process as soon as possible.

Global is here: Domestic politics must address global challenges

The second track consists of policy actions. We have identified key stakeholders – not just from the outgoing administration, but also among the parties most likely to form the next one. In bilateral talks and events, we have established contacts with decisionmakers, civil society partners and experts. In all our interactions with our stakeholders, we communicate the necessity to act in a language relevant to our partners’ constituents and give actionable policy suggestions. By inviting political decisionmakers to join our Instagram format “What if…?” we offer them an attractive way to participate in the public awareness the format receives while making sure to get their attention for our topics and political asks.

Our strategy is straightforward: Engaging the public by showcasing how human health around the globe is impacted by values important to them, and in turn generate a sense of urgency among political decision-makers to address these issues. Strong online engagement suggests we are right on track.

Written by

Donald Sandmann

Donald Sandmann

Donald Sandmann is a project manager at Healthy Planet - Healthy People and responsible for international projects and the foundation’s advocacy activities. He previously worked for a consultancy in political communication and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. He has a background in anthropology and international cooperation.

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