Elizabeth Willetts
Visiting Scholars and Scientists

Elizabeth Willetts

Visiting Scholar

Environmental Health



Planetary Health Policy Director
Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

Liz is an internationally recognized expert in interdisciplinary policy analysis and communications for planetary health. She has more than 20 years experience mobilizing knowledge and engagement on biodiversity, climate change, pollution, food systems, and community health for marginalized populations.

In 2021, she designed and led a landmark global policy guide Health in the Global Environmental Agenda published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). In 2022, she authored and led five interagency science-policy briefs on climate change for the World Health Organization and authored a regional policy guide on Operationalizing the Environment-Health Nexus for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

As a long-standing member of IISD's policy reporting team, she spent 15 years tracking intergovernmental negotiations across a range of multilateral environmental agreements, including on climate change (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity, Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture), food security (UN Committee on World Food Security), chemicals and waste pollution (Basel and Rotterdam conventions, Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management), water (UN-Water, Budapest Water Summit), disaster risk (Sendai Framework), and sustainable development (Commission on Sustainable Development, High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development). She has published several policy articles on planetary health issues in The Lancet, and is a Newsdesk writer for the Lancet Planetary Health.

Liz is also a clinician and has served long-term roles in community medicine, on a remote island in Micronesia, at a bilingual Spanish clinic in Harvard-Brigham & Women's Hospital system, and in an Indigenous hospital in Central America. In 2001, she was the inaugural Nutrition Coordinator for the Netter Center for Community Partnerships where she designed nutrition and food education programs in Philadelphia public schools.

BA, 2002, Biology: Ecology & Human Physiology
University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA

MEM, 2008, Environmental Economics & Policy
Duke University, NC, USA

MMSc, 2014, Medicine
Emory University, GA, USA



Shining a light on the human toll of climate change

Experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are bringing an important message to the United Nations’ annual climate conference this year: that the continued burning of fossil fuels poses a massive health threat.

Preserving biodiversity for planetary, human health

Liz Willetts, visiting scholar and planetary health policy director in Harvard Chan School's Department of Environmental Health, explains the importance of nations aligning their biodiversity policies to optimize outcomes for both biodiversity and health.