In 2014, Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, published a manifesto for Planetary Health, calling for “collective public health action at all levels of society – personal, community, national, regional, global, and planetary.” He wrote, “Our aim is to respond to the threats we face: threats to human health and wellbeing, threats to the sustainability of our civilisation, and threats to the natural and human-made systems that support us. Our vision is for a planet that nourishes and sustains the diversity of life with which we coexist and on which we depend. Our goal is to create a movement for planetary health.”
Since the publication of that manifesto, the links between human health and the health of our planet have become ever clearer. Runaway climate change, reliance on fossil fuels and increasing conflict over scarce water resources are having a real impact on people’s life chances and ability to flourish, with the poorest communities often hit the hardest. The intercalated MSc in Global and Planetary Health at Durham University offers a unique opportunity to engage with these challenges, through working at the interface between human health, environmental sustainability and social justice. If you’re interested in broadening your perspective beyond clinical medicine in this way, then maybe this is the programme for you!
The MSc Global and Planetary Health based within the Anthropology Department at Durham University – an institution at the forefront of teaching and research in global health and environmental sustainability. Our Anthropology of Health group has a large research portfolio, ranging from physical activity, tobacco use and non-communicable diseases in Northeast England, all the way to mental health, environmental and disaster resilience in Asia, human-animal health (‘One Health’) and emerging zoonotic diseases Africa, and many more. We have very close links with the world-renowned Durham Energy Institute, and a wide range of current research projects on resilience, sustainable environmental practices and the socio-politics of energy, which all contribute to increasing knowledge in the exciting emergent subject of planetary health.
As an intercalated medical student taking our MSc Global and Planetary Health, you would become an active participant in our thriving Anthropology of Health and Social Anthropology research groups (AHRG and SARG), comprising academic staff, postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers. Both groups host high-profile seminar speakers, and offer the chance to meet others to discuss grant applications, fieldwork projects, future research, etc. You will also have the opportunity to join and participate in the activities of Durham’s inter-disciplinary research institutes, including the Durham Energy Institute, the Wolfson Institute for Health and Wellbeing, the Institute for Hazard, Risk and Resilience, and the Institute for medical Humanities.
Durham University is located in a region with profound socioeconomic problems and inequalities, and members of staff have connections with many agencies working in the region as well as NGOs and other stakeholders working in other parts of the world. Faculty members in Anthropology have ongoing research projects in public health, global and planetary health, the medical humanities and science and technology studies. All these connections will help you not only to get to grips with the subject areas covered by Global and Planetary Health, but to be a more effective and reflective practitioner in the future.
Degree Structure and Content: The degree consists of three core taught modules: Anthropology of Global Health; Society, Energy, Environment and Resilience; and Planetary Health in Social Context. Together, these will give you an excellent grounding in the history, theories and practices influencing human and environmental health at local, national and global levels. You will then choose from an extensive list of optional modules from across the wider university, allowing you to follow specialised routes through the programme. There are even options to take a language module from Durham’s Centre for Foreign Language Studies if you wish.
Finally, you will undertake either an academic or a vocational dissertation, closely supported by a supervisor who is an expert in your chosen field. The academic dissertation is an independent research project based on a specialist area of your degree of particular interest, using the knowledge gained in the research methods modules, and collecting and analysing primary data. The vocational dissertation applies the skills and the methods learnt in core and optional modules to a vocational project on a subject devised in consultation with a partner in the private, voluntary or public sector. You will write a research diary and a consultancy-style report and ultimately acquire a high level of knowledge and understanding of a specialist sub-field of global and planetary health and its relationship to your topic.
We run a special exam board for intercalating students in September each year. This gives plenty of time for your results to be fed back to your medical school to enable you to progress successfully to the next stage of your medical career.
Medical students are invited to join our programme at the end of the third or fourth year of their MBBS degree. The intercalated programme runs from the end of September until the end of June each year, with all teaching completed by Easter (in order to give you more time at the end for your supervised dissertation research). You can apply at any time of year up to and including July, although earlier is preferable for planning purposes. Apart from an enthusiasm for the subject, the only requirement is that you should have successfully completed at least one social and behavioural sciences strand in the course of your MBBS programme to date. You should also have an IELTS of 7.0 overall (with at least 7.0 in writing).
31 July 2024 (although we recommend applying earlier owing to limited places)