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On the need for an ecologically dimensioned medical humanities
  1. Jonathan Coope
  1. Mary Seacole Research Centre, De Montfort University - City Campus, Leicester, Leicestershire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jonathan Coope, Mary Seacole Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK; jcoope{at}


Increasing calls from medical professionals and scholars suggest an urgent need for better and more widespread understandings of the ecological dimensions of health. Such calls have included: two recent Lancet special commissions on impacts of climate change on health; and recognition by senior figures from the WHO and United Nations of relationships between human impacts on the natural world and disease pandemics, with some suggesting prevention of future pandemics may require a radical reassessment of modernity’s relationship with the natural world.

Among the medical humanities as a whole, however, calls for better and more widespread understandings of the ecological dimensions of health have not always been as prominent, or urgently expressed, as they might be.

This paper, which presumes there is an urgent need for better and more widespread understandings of the ecological dimensions of human health, draws on ecological public health and other models to propose an ecological re-visioning of our conceptions of health and medical humanities; and in ways that challenge some contemporary assumptions about health, well-being and the ‘good society’. Indeed, once we begin to heed what ecocritic Tim Morton terms ‘the ecological thought’, we may discover few areas of healthcare and the humanities remain untouched by its implications.

With growing recognition that the fate of global human health and the fate of the biosphere are inextricably entwined, the project of a more ecologically dimensioned medical humanities appears both timely and urgent. Such a project may represent a significant opportunity for the medical humanities, and a significant responsibility.

  • cultural history
  • philosophy of medicine/health care
  • philosophy of science
  • public health
  • social science

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.