New UW–Madison Planetary Health Scholars Program Creates Synergy for a Healthier Future

Originally posted by Global Health Institute, January 30, 2020

Jessica LeClair portrait
Jessica LeClair, MPH, RN

An engineer, an anthropologist and a nurse meet for dinner. One studies the costs and benefits of aquaponics to health and the environment. One delves into how different populations understand and talk about the world. The third looks at issues of justice and caring for people in the context of their environment.

By sharing ideas, these Planetary Health Scholars—part of a new scholarship program from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies—hope to find new insights into their work and new paths toward a sustainable, healthy tomorrow for humans and the planet.

Among the Spring 2020 Planetary Health Scholars is Jessica LeClair, a PhD student and clinical faculty member at the School of Nursing, with her advisor Prof. Susan Zahner, DRPH, RN, FAAN. LeClair says planetary health speaks to the language of public health nursing.

“Nurses worry about context, and planetary health is about the context—the social, economic, political and ecological environments—in which we live that has implications for our health. It’s important to have a broad understanding of how all these different areas are related, and planetary health broadens the conversation about effective strategies.” —Jessica LeClair

Through the study of planetary health, LeClair will explore many questions about justice for all species and ways to avoid colonial-era assumptions. “If we want to care for human society today and into the future in the face of planetary collapse and societal breakdown, how do we adjust our practice to be in alignment with a world we want to create that’s sustainable?”

The Planetary Health Graduate Scholarship program brings students and their advisors together from across campus to explore how humans are changing the planet and to recognize the health consequences of those choices. Applications for the 2020-2021 academic year are open through March 1, 2020.

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