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Human health and ecological economics

posted on 2023-05-22, 20:18 authored by Martin HensherMartin Hensher
Health is a central aspect of all conceptions of human well-being and flourishing. This chapter considers a number of contemporary challenges in human health through the lens of ecological economics, and makes suggestions for developing a more focused agenda for applying ecological economics to health. The chapter applies a framework based upon the World Health Organization's Ten Threats to Global Health. Non-communicable diseases (NCD) overtook infectious diseases as the leading cause of deaths globally two decades ago; a significant portion of the preventable burden of NCDs is driven by harmful overconsumption, and there is growing recognition of the interlinked impacts of global syndemics such as malnutrition, obesity and climate change. Ecological economics will need to develop effective approaches to the impacts of ageing and longevity, and to persistent inequalities in health between and within nations, as understanding grows of the central role of social inequality in generating poor physical and mental health. Providing adequate access to health care in low income countries while simultaneously reducing the harmful and wasteful overconsumption of health care is a challenge to which ecological economics may be able to contribute. Climate change and environmental pollutants have significant adverse health impacts; meanwhile, the negative environmental impacts of health care systems are becoming more clearly understood. Finally, ecological economics may be well placed to contribute to addressing the twin threats of infectious diseases, pandemics and high-threat pathogens on the one hand, and of growing antimicrobial resistance on the other.


Publication title

Sustainable Wellbeing Futures: A Research and Action Agenda for Ecological Economics


R Costanza, JD Erickson, J Farley and I Kubiszewski






Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Elgar Online

Place of publication

United Kingdom



Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Edward Elgar Publishing

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Ecological economics; Determinants of health; Social structure and health

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