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Menatti Laura | Fellow Senior
2022-10-01 - 2024-09-30 | Research area: Sustainability Research
Health and environment. An integrative philosophical framework to understand our relationship with the surroundings.

Health has been mostly discussed in biomedical sciences and humanities in terms of pathology and dysfunction. Disease, pain, and well-being are also mostly defined in these terms. What is absent is a relational framework of health and well-being that accounts for the ways in which the environment both supports and promotes health, rather than being just a source of negative impacts. The COVID-19 pandemic and the projected ways climate change will transform our conception of health and well-being show the need to incorporate the environment in the analysis of health. Practical changes have started to be made. International documents and amendments to the mainstream definitions of health have been calling for the importance of the environment in medical theory and education. A thorough conceptual analysis of the relationship between health and environment that unifies the contributions from different disciplines is thus needed. This project meets the urgency of this need, by extending my previous philosophical work into an interdisciplinary framework for understanding the coupling between health and environment. The project provides a theoretical analysis in which philosophy is continuously engaged with medical and environmental sciences leading to practical applications. The project has two parts: 1) analysing different conceptualizations of the environment in biomedical sciences in terms of salutogenesis and pathogenesis; 2) applying the concepts of adaptation and adaptivity to further develop these conceptualizations.
These two steps together will provide a relational and situated characterization of the health-environment coupling. I will illustrate how the environment, as related to health, does not constitute only a set of independentboundary conditions affecting a system/human health nor a generic source of perturbations. Rather, I will demonstrate how the environment can be understood as a source of salutogenic opportunities that allow a system to expand its range of viability. This project has applications that go beyond philosophy, as it will help reorient medical education and healthcare practice towards sustainability and environmental thinking.