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University of Exeter Medical School

 David Pencheon

David Pencheon

Honorary Professor, Health and Sustainable Development

 01392 241337

 Medical School Building 


Medical School Building, St Luke's Campus, Magdalen Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK


David Pencheon is a UK trained doctor and was the founder Director of the Sustainable Development Unit for NHS England and Public Health England, established in 2007.  He left the SDU on 1st January 2018 and is now an Honorary Professor and an Associate at the Medical and Health School at the University of Exeter, UK, an Advisory Group member and associate with the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, a trans-disciplinary centre, and a collaborator with the European Centre for Environment and Health and the Global Systems Institute, all at the University of Exeter  He has held appointments at University College London (UCL), and is a visiting Professor at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES) at the University of Surrey, and was appointed an Adjunct Professor at Monash University in Melbourne in 2020.  In 2018 he was a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney, Australia.

David Pencheon was previously Director of the Public Health Observatory in Cambridge from 2001 to 2007.  He has worked as a clinical doctor in the NHS, a joint Director of Public Health in North Cambridgeshire, a Public Health Training Director, with the NHS R&D programme, and in rural China in the early 1990s with Save the Children Fund (UK).

His current roles within these Departments in Exeter is to understand the role of health professionals and health systems in ensuring a safe, equitable and prosperous planet for all.  This work is with both undergraduates (with Special Study Modules) and with postgraduates, particularly via the Planetary Health module of the MPH programme.

He was awarded the OBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours List for services to public health and to the NHS. In 2020 David was awarded the BMJ's "Outstanding Contribution to Health Award".


1979 - B.A. (Hons) [Cantab]

1982 - B.M. B.Ch. [Oxon]

1983 - M.A. [Cantab]

1988 - M.Sc. in Community Medicine [London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London University]

1998 - F.F.P.H.M. (Fellowship of Faculty of Public Health Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians.)

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Research interests

His main interests and areas of research and publication are: public and planetary health, climate change, and sustainable development; large scale change; strategy development; and personal, professional, organisational and societal development – especially through an equitable post-carbon transition.

His current area of research is how we get practical and radical on creating the conditions most likely to promote environmental, social and economic sustainability for life promoting planetary systems.

Recent Publications:

Charlesworth, A.  Gray, A, Pencheon, D. Stern, N. Assessing the health benefits of tackling climate change  BMJ 2011; 343 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d6520 (Published 19 October 2011)

Pencheon, D. Wellbeing. Does sustainability have a future? Health Serv.J. 121 (6271):28-29, 2011.

Pencheon, D. Why sustainable health services are key to the future of healthcare? Health Serv.J. 23rd August 2011.

Charlesworth, K. Ray ,S. Head, F. Pencheon, D. Developing an environmentally sustainable NHS: outcomes of implementing an educational intervention on sustainable health care with UK public health registrars. N.S.W.Public Health Bull. 23 (1-2):27-30, 2012.

Pencheon, D. People and planet: from vicious cycle to virtuous circle. 31st May 2012.  BMJ 2012;344:e3774

Pencheon, D. We must leave the right legacy. 27th Sept. 2012.  Health Service Journal

Pencheon D, “Sustainable development – the opportunities and the challenges for the public’s health” Chapter in Essential Public Health: Theory and Practice, 2012 2nd Edition, Gillam, S. Yates, J, and Badrinath, P.

Pencheon, D. Roschnik, S, Cosford, P. Health, sustainability, and climate change. Chapter 7.6 in Oxford Handbook of Public Health Practice (3rd Edition). Eds. Guest. C. Ricciardi, W. Kawachi, I. Lang, I. Oxford. 2012, OUP, Oxford.

Pencheon D. A Climate for Change.  Public Health Today. p9, March; 2013.

Pencheon D. Developing a sustainable health and care system: lessons for research and policy.  J Health Serv Res Policy. 2013 Oct;

Pencheon D. Sustainable development in healthcare.  British Journal of Healthcare Management.  DOI:  Feb 18th, 2014.

Pretty J, Barton J, Bharucha Z, Bragg R, Pencheon D, Wood C, Depledge M. Improving Health and Well-Being Independently of GDP: Dividends of Greener and Prosocial Economies. International Journal of Environmental Health Research. Feb: 2015.  Open Access:

Pencheon D.  This is on our watch.  Public Health Today. Spring, 2016; p9.

Pencheon D.  A financially, socially and environmentally sustainable National Health Service. British Journal of Healthcare Management. May 2nd 2016; Volume 22, Issue 5 (pp 252–253)

Watts N, Adger W...Pencheon D…et al. The Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change. Published online: November 14th, 2016. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)32124-9

Smith J, Hopkins R, Pencheon D.  Could the Transition movement help solve the NHS’s problems?  Journal of Public Health, pp. 1–5, doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdw129  December 2nd, 2016

Roschnik S, Martinez GS, Yglesias-Gonzalez M, Pencheon D, Tennison I. WHO Public Health Panorama; Transitioning to Environmentally Sustainable Health Systems: the example of the NHS in England. Public Health Panorama, 3(2), June 2017, 141-356.

Morton S, Pencheon D, Squires N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and their implementation. A national global framework for health, development and equity needs a systems approach at every level.  Invited Review.  British Medical Bulletin, August 2017, 1–10. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldx031.

Quantz D, Jenkin D, Stevenson E, Pencheon D, Middleton J.  Sustainable development in public health consultant education.  The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 1, No. 7, e260, October 2017.

Pencheon D, Developing a sustainable health care system: the United Kingdom experience. Medical Journal of Australia. 2018; 208 (7): 284-285. doi: 10.5694/mja17.01134.

Pencheon D, Dalton A. Pollution from the health and care system. In: Davies SC, editor. Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2017, Health Impacts of All Pollution – what do we know? p. 40-73. London: Department of Health and Social Care; 2017.

Watts, N, et al. The 2018 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: shaping the health of nations for centuries to come. Lancet, Volume 392, Issue 10163, P2479-2514, December 8th  2018.

Morton S, Pencheon D, Bickler G. The sustainable development goals provide an important framework for addressing dangerous climate change and achieving wider public health benefits. Public Health. ISSN 0033-3506. Volume 174, September 2019, Pages 65-68.

Sainsbury P, Charlesworth K, Madden L, Capon A, Stewart G, Pencheon D Climate change is a health issue: what can doctors do? Internal Medicine Journal 49 (2019) 1044–1048. Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

Watts, N, et al. The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate. Vol 394, Issue 10211, P1836-1878 November 13, 2019. DOI:  (Full Text: )

Pencheon D, Wight J. Making healthcare and health systems net zero. BMJ 2020; 368 doi:  (Published 30 March 2020)

Lenzen M, Malik A, Li M, Fry J, Weisz H, Pichler P, Capon A, Pencheon D. The global environmental footprint of health care. The Lancet Planetary Health, 2020. Volume 4, Issue 7, e271 - e279

Lenzen M, Capon A, Malik A, Pencheon D, Weisz H. Health care has a huge environmental footprint, which then harms health. This is a matter of ethics. July 16, 2020.

Sherman J, et al. The Green Print: Advancement of Environmental Sustainability in Healthcare. Resources, Conservation & Recycling, 161 (2020) 104882  Sustainable Healthcare special issue. Summary findings of Yale 2018 workshop of Environmental Sustainability in Healthcare.

Salas R, Maibach E, Watts N, Pencheon D, Frumkin H. A pathway to net zero emissions for healthcare.  BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 1st  October 2020).

Thornber K, Adshead F, Balayannis A, Brazier R, Brown R, Comberg S, Court C, Davidson I, Depledge M, Farmer C, Gibb S, Hixson R, Kirchhelle C,  Moore K, Motta M, Niemi L, Owen S, Pencheon D, Pfleger S, Pitchforth E, Tyler C. First, do no harm: time for a systems approach to address the problem of healthcare-derived pharmaceutical pollution. Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 6, Issue 12, December 2022, Pages e935-e937

Research projects

  • Work with both undergraduates (with Special Study Modules) and with postgraduates, particularly via the Planetary Health module of the MPH programme.
  • Supporting James Dyke and Tim Lenton in Exeter GSI
  • Advisory Group member and associate with the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health
  • Associate with Professor Ian Fussell in the University of Exeter Medical and Health School and with Professor Lora Fleming in the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

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External Engagement and Impact


He was awarded the OBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours List for services to public health and to the NHS.

Committee/panel activities

Food, Farming and Countryside Commission: Commissioner.

Media Coverage

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  • Work with both undergraduates (with Special Study Modules) and with postgraduates, particularly via the Planetary Health module of the MPH programme.

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