CFHI Planetary Health Initiative

From our work in Uganda to Mexico to the Philippines, CFHI knows that the health of people, ecosystems, and the planet are connected. We have seen tremendous advancements in human health outcomes since our founding, from increased life expectancy, to reduced poverty, to reduced maternal and infant mortality. However, this progress has been accompanied by unprecedented global environmental changes that jeopardize these gains and the health of future generations. Some of these threats include deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and water scarcity.

At CFHI we envision a generation of planetary health changemakers equipped to address global environmental change and health impacts. Our global partners who live on the front lines of environmental challenges are well equipped to support students as they engage in clinical rotations, lectures, site visits to explore planetary health themes.

The following programs are best suited for a student interested in planetary health:


Community Health and Native Healing (Hawaii, United States) 

Launched in October 2018 and based on Hawaii’s Big Island, CFHI's first domestic program incorporates strong themes of Planetary Health. In this program, you will look at health in a holistic way. You will learn about health challenges (such as homelessness, poverty, drug use, lack of access to healthy food) and the innovative clinical and non-clinical community-based approaches implemented for addressing them. You will also study the Native Hawaiian cultural values, beliefs, history, and the practice of traditional kanaka maoli lapa‘au (Hawaiian medicine) in which the human health and the health of the environment are linked. The diversity of visits and activities, dubbed “Kumulau” or “many roots of the tree” by local leaders, will emphasize that culture is not separate from health and environment. This program operated in this unique island context is a perfect illustration of Planetary Health challenges that transcends borders. Learn more

Community Medicine: From Rainforest to Coast (Puyo/Guayaquil, Ecuador) 

This program takes you from the public hospital in an urban setting to a small public healthcare clinic at the edge of the rainforest. You will get exposure to rural and community medicine dealing with a wide range of conditions. This program provides an anthropological insight into indigenous communities through a visit to a Shuar tribe village. In this Planetary Health program, you will learn from local experts about a wide range of environmental disciplines (botany, animal husbandry, forestry, entomology) and the sociocultural and political aspects of jungle preservation. Learn more


Child Health & Social Determinants (Accra, Ghana)

In the bustling capital city of Accra, this program covers the scope of the various factors that directly affect the health of Ghanaian children. The major themes include Planetary Health approaches such as malnutrition, children without sufficient access to proteins, lack of clean water, family planning, etc. Learn more

Chronic Disease & Integrative Medicine (Mysore/Saragur Village, India)

This program focuses on indigenous farming communities and the holistic approach to health. Lifestyle and dietary changes have led to the increase of chronic diseases (such as hypertension, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease) which are observed in higher rates in a sedentary population. This program highlights how to address these issues through a combination of western and traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It is an opportunity to learn about these plant-based medicines grown on-site and the importance of the cultural and historical practices and belief systems in these communities Learn more

Intro to Traditional Medicine (Rishikesh/Dehradum, India)

This program integrates themes related to Planetary Health. In many regions of the world, traditional medicine is the only affordable care for most of the population. A big part of traditional medicine involves the use of plants for treatment and is naturally aligned against aggressive farming or deforestation practices. This program creates a connection between traditional and modern medicine and aims to highlight how the two can work in harmony by developing cross-cultural competency. The week spent in a small clinic in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains offers an opportunity to learn about these integrated approaches. Learn more

Public Health Delivery Innovations & Community Medicine (New Delhi, India)

The brief placements at several NGOs in this program cover significant aspects of Planetary Health. This is a unique opportunity to learn more about the ecology of poverty and how these organizations address social and health challenges in the Indian cultural context. In many of these settings, environmental approaches and social reforms are integrated. These projects aim to develop environmental sanitation, alternative energy or waste management through education and vocational training. CFHI’s partners at this program site promotes human rights and focuses their efforts on bringing care to vulnerable populations (untouchable caste, LGBTQ community, HIV patients, street children, homeless population, adolescents with addiction). Learn more

Remote Island Medicine in Philippines (Manila/Alabat, Philippines)

This program takes you from the urban settings of Manila to the remote islands known as geographically isolated disadvantaged areas (GIDA). You will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the healthcare challenges in the Philippines and to observe the impacts on health and environment of different industries  such as mining, fishing or farming. Learn more

Healthcare Systems and Community-Based Development (Arusha, Tanzania)

Tanzania illustrates several modern challenges represented by the Planetary Health model. Tanzania faces environmental threats with the increased frequency and intensity of droughts. Water shortages have a negative impact on human health: these impacts include the spread of disease, malnutrition due to lack of rainfall, challenges in water collection and small scale farming. Through this program, you will witness the consequences of climate change. Working with local experts, you will contribute to improving socioeconomic and health outcomes of the local population, including capacity building for women, nutrition, water sanitation, and agricultural initiatives. Learn more

Nutrition, Food Security & Sustainable Agriculture (Kabale, Uganda) 

This program offers a unique exposure to Planetary Health through a ground-breaking approach to improving food security and nutrition. CFHI’s local partner in Kabale leads actions in health, education and economic development. From a primary care clinic to rural communities, you will witness the implementation of practical solutions in health, farming and education. Learn more

Omni Med: Community Health Workers @ Global Health (Mukono District, Uganda)

This program provides the opportunity to look at several social and technological innovations involving Planetary Health. Learn more about the importance and organization of Community Health Workers in Uganda’s health system who help with the shortage of healthcare professionals. In addition to preventive health education, primary diagnosis and health monitoring, they play a role in building low cost technologies maximizing existing natural resources and having direct positive impacts on human health, such as cookstoves helping to reduce asthma or sources of clean water. Learn more