Beyond Building Back Better: Imagining a Future for Human and Planetary Health

Aragón de León, Emilia, Shriwise, Amanda, Tomson, Gӧran, Morton, Stephen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7122-0201, Simão Lemos, Diogo, Menne, Bettina and Dooris, Mark T orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5986-1660 (2021) Beyond Building Back Better: Imagining a Future for Human and Planetary Health. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5 (11). E827-E839.

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COVID-19 is disrupting and transforming our world. We argue that transformations catalyzed by this pandemic should be harnessed to improve human and planetary health and well-being. This paradigm shift requires us to go ‘Beyond Building Back Better’ by nesting the economic domain of sustainable development within social and environmental domains. Drawing on the E4As approach (Engage, Assess, Align, Accelerate, Account) to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we explore the implications of this kind of radical transformative change, focusing particularly on the role of the health sector. We conclude that recovery and transition from COVID-19 that delivers the future we want, and need, requires more than a technical understanding of the transformation at hand. It also requires commitment and courage from leaders and policymakers to challenge dominant constructs and to imagine a truly thriving, equitable and sustainable future in order to create a world where the economy is not an end in itself, but a means to secure the health and wellbeing of people and the planet.

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