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Economics for people and planet—moving beyond the neoclassical paradigm

Milena Büchs, Lina Brand-Correa, Daniel W O’Neill, Anna Brook, Petra Meier, Yannish Naik

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Elsevier BV


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Despite substantial attention within the fields of public and planetary health on developing an economic system that benefits both people's health and the environment, heterodox economic schools of thought have received little attention within these fields. Ecological economics is a school of thought with particular relevance to public and planetary health. In this article, we discuss implications of key ecological economics ideas for public and planetary health, especially those related to critiques of gross domestic product as a measure of progress and economic growth as the dominant goal for economic and policy decision making. We suggest that ecological economics aligns well with public health goals, including concern for equality and redistribution. Ecological economics offers an opportunity to make the transition to an economic system that is designed to promote human and planetary health from the outset, rather than one where social and environmental externalities must be constantly corrected after the fact. Important ideas from ecological economics include the use of a multidimensional framework to evaluate economic and social performance, the prioritisation of wellbeing and environmental goals in decision making, policy design and evaluation that take complex relationships into account, and the role of provisioning systems (the physical and social systems that link resource use and social outcomes). We discuss possible interventions at the national scale that could promote public health and that align with the prioritisation of social and ecological objectives, including universal basic income or services and sovereign money creation. Overall, we lay the foundations for additional integration of ecological economics principles and pluralist economic thinking into public and planetary health scholarship and practice.

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