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Renzo Guinto joins Singapore institute to explore links between health and climate in Asia

The planetary health expert has relocated from Quezon City in the Philippines to the city-state as associate professor at a health institute under Duke-NUS Medical School.

Renzo Guinto_Duke-NUS Medical School_Planetary Health
Renzo Guinto has started a new position as associate professor of global and planetary health at SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. Image: Renzo Guinto

A Singapore-based global health institute has recruited Filipino academic Renzo Guinto, a key advocate of the emerging concept of “planetary health”, and tasked him to set up a new Asia-wide network focused on advancing collaboration on healthcare research and advocacy. 

Guinto has moved into the new role as associate professor at SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute (SDGHI), run by the Duke-NUS Medical School, a graduate medical school in Singapore.

The appointment comes after Guinto spent nearly four years at private non-profit healthcare institution St Luke’s Medical Centre in Quezon City. He has relocated from the Philippines to Singapore, but will stay on as visiting professor at St Luke’s and continue to look into health issues in his home country. 

On the new health alliance that he is helping to set up this year, Guinto told Eco-Business that it is “a dream” that he shares with many peers at healthcare institutes across the region.

The Covid-19 pandemic cast a spotlight on the interconnectedness of the health of nations and the importance of collaboration, including at the regional level, he said. Southeast Asian researchers are interested in the idea of “decolonising global health” and it is “timely and relevant” to set up a network to focus on education, research and advocacy aimed at advancing health equity and wellbeing closer to home, said Guinto.

“Hopefully it will strengthen health solidarity in the region,” he said. 

Planetary health refers to the concept that health of both people and planet can be taken care of in an integrated way. Guinto said: “Asia is at the heart of many of these ‘planetary health’ crises. It can also be the source of solutions and innovations that will tackle these problems.” 

In recent months, Guinto’s profile has risen as one of the few important voices in Southeast Asia advocating for planetary health to be recognised.

Last month, Guinto was named senior honorary visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He also sits on an expert panel for the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines that looks at health sector reforms in the climate-vulnerable country. At the COP28 climate summit in Dubai last December, Guinto was the only Southeast Asian representative appointed to a new 13-member advisory group on ethics in climate health policy under the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Guinto said he will bring on-the-ground insights to global discussions so that more people will understand how communities in Southeast Asia are affected by climate change, as well as how they are mobilising to address social and health impacts related to extreme weather events, from typhoons in the Philippines to extreme heat in Singapore. His work will focus on practical issues faced by governments, including how to implement climate-smart healthcare systems when resources are limited.

On the sidelines of the COP28 negotiations, WHO and the World Meterological Organisation (WMO) also appointed the Heat Resilience and Performance Centre at Singapore’s NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine as the Southeast Asian node for its health information network. 

In his new role at SDGHI, Guinto will be involved in launching new graduate and executive education programmes on global health, and help develop the institute’s research and policy portfolio in planetary health. 

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