He studied medicine at Oxford University and then spent several years in hospital medicine in London before taking up an epidemiological research post at the UK National Heart & Lung Institute. From there he moved to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in 1994, where he first began research into the links between the environment and health, initially studying hazards arising from localized chemical contamination of the environment—pollution of the air and from industrial emissions. Such hazards have been the focus of much international research effort in recent years reflecting the problems associated with industrialization and urban living in both the developed and the developing world.
More recently, Dr. Wilkinson has been part of a research team that has begun to focus on the health impacts of global environmental change. There is now increasing recognition of the growing threats to human health from large-scale environmental changes—threats arising from our profligate consumption of the Earth’s resources and from pollution of the environment on a global scale. One of those threats is climate change and its potential impacts on health. Dr. Wilkinson’s research in this field was developed initially through a cooperative research group on climate change, ozone depletion, and health sponsored by the Medical Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council, a collaboration between the London School and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. He is co-director at LSHTM of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Global Change and Health. In 2009 he was a key member of the Task Force on Climate Change Mitigation and Public Health. He currently leads a major European Commission–funded project on the public health impacts in urban environments of greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies in Europe and Asia.