ABSTRACT

Experts in preventive medicine and public health have long-since recognized that health is more than the absence of disease and that each person in the ‘waiting room’ and beyond manifests the social/political/economic ecosystems that are part of their total lived experience. The term planetary health—denoting the interconnections between the health of person and place at all scales—emerged from the environmental and preventive health movements of the 1970–1980s. Roused by the 2015 Lancet Commission on Planetary Health report, the term has more recently penetrated mainstream academic and medical discourse. Here, we discuss the relevance of planetary health in the era of personalized medicine, gross environmental concerns, and a crisis of non-communicable diseases. We frame our discourse around high-level wellness—a concept of vitality defined by Halbert L. Dunn (1896–1975); high-level wellness was defined as an integrated method of functioning which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of individuals within the total lived environment. Dunn maintained that high-level wellness is also applicable to organizations, communities, nations, and humankind as a whole—stating further that global high-level wellness is a product of the vitality and sustainability of the Earth’s natural systems. He called for a universal philosophy of living. Researchers and healthcare providers who focus on lifestyle and environmental aspects of health—and understand barriers such as authoritarianism and social dominance orientation—are fundamental to maintaining trans-generational vitality at scales of person, place, and planet.

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