Environment and Health

Thursday 3 November 2011, 6:00pm,
The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London

Making healthy environments

Health is influenced by the physical, the social and the cultural environment, while inequalities result from relative deprivation as well as from absolute poverty. It is increasingly recognised by policymakers that the distribution of various kinds of wellbeing and risk across a population has an important impact on society as a whole.

Some key questions include:

  • What is “health”? 
  • Do we accept the World Health Organisation definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”
  • Is health a property of individuals, groups or societies and how is our idea of health changing? 
  • What is a healthy environment?  

This conversation will try to define ‘health’, ask how our ideas of health are changing and consider what makes a healthy environment and if this differs for humans and other animals and plants.


Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw is Labour MP for Exeter and former Minister of State for Health and former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Previously he worked as a newspaper and radio journalist. He has a degree in German from the University of Sussex.


Lord Robert May of Oxford OM AC Kt FRS holds a Professorship in Zoology at the University of Oxford and Imperial College, London and is a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. Previously, he was President of The Royal Society and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government.

Sir Jonathon Porritt OBE is Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, and former Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission. He is an eminent writer, broadcaster and commentator on sustainable development. He is also co-director of The Prince of Wales’s Business and Environment Programme and is involved in the work of many NGOs and charities.

Professor Richard Wilkinson is a British researcher specialising in the social determinants of health and the societal effects of income inequality. He is a co-founder of The Equality Trust and an Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham.

Sussex Respondents:

Professor Helen Smith is Chair of Primary Care and Head of Division of Primary Care and Public Health, in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS). She is an academic clinician with dual accreditation in general practice and public health medicine. Her research focuses on the evaluation in the community of new ways to improve patients' health, which includes models of service delivery, technologies and novel treatments. Her current portfolio is focused on the care of children and adults with asthma and allergic disorders.

Professor Michael Ramsey is Professor of Environmental Science at University of Sussex, former European Chair of the Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health (SEGH) and was recently guest editor of a special edition of a journal on Environment and Human Health. His personal research focuses on finding ways to estimate and reduce the uncertainty of all environmental measurements, and to consider the implication of this uncertainty for applications such as human health risk assessment.

Professor Francis Ratnieks is the UK's only Professor of Apiculture and is head of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at the University of Sussex. LASI carries out basic and applied research on honey bees and other social insects. The applied research, known as the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health and Well-being, aims to help honey bees and beekeeping by breeding disease-resistant honey bees and by decoding honey bee communication dances to determine where they collect their food.