Planetary Health

An artistic rendering of a forest from a birds-eye view, with lungs made of clouds in the trees

At the core of nursing is the understanding that when we create the right environment, nature not only can heal itself, but it is an essential partner in human health. Human health and the health of the planet are inseparable.

What is Planetary Health?

Planetary Health is an emerging field. It was established in 2015 and the theory and framework are still under development.

The School of Nursing's recognized work in the area of climate mitigation and adaptation, positions us as a thought leader in the field and provides opportunities for new areas of research, teaching, and service. Dr. Teddie Potter was appointed the School of Nursing’s first Director of Planetary Health in 2019.

In all areas and all activities, the School of Nursing will work to ensure that nursing is visible and recognized for our profession’s historical contributions and alignment with planetary health. Nursing’s systems thinking is essential if we are to create the necessary healing opportunities for individuals and the planet.

Resources for Educators

Icebergs melting

Climate Change and Health Curriculum

An interprofessional Response Curriculum helps learners understand the connection between climate and health, and that it is essential for health professionals of all disciplines.

A lighthouse on the sea back-lit by a rising sun

Cross-Cutting Principles for Planetary Health Education

Read full descriptions for the 12 cross-cutting principles—a set of guiding principles that educators teaching planetary health at any level should strive to impart upon their students.


Nursing Collaboratory, the award-winning academic-practice partnership between the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, Fairview Health Services and University of Minnesota Health, was among the co-signers of a call-to-action for clinicians to mobilize around planetary health published in the medical journal The Lancet. 


"It is often thought that medicine is the curative process. It is no such thing; medicine is the surgery of functions, as surgery is that of limbs and organs. Neither can do anything but remove obstructions; neither can cure, nature alone cures. Surgery removes the bullet out of the limb, which is an obstruction to cure, but nature heals the wound. So, it is with medicine; the function of an organ becomes obstructed; medicine, so far as we know, assists nature to remove the obstruction, but does nothing more. And what nursing has to do in either case is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him."

Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing (p. 133)

Indigenous Knowledge Recognition

The Dakota People and the Ojibwe People are the original indigenous people of Minnesota. Their knowledge, traditions, and community life ways make them the planetary health experts for this place. We recognize and honor their knowledge as a necessary requirement for a sustainable and healthy future.