Current Initiatives of the IAEH Community
Programs, Policies and Projects
Actions showcases current initiatives in which our members are engaging, including projects collaborations and partnerships to stimulate change and raise awareness for the ecohealth agenda worldwide. Members are invited to contribute by completing the IAEH New Website Article form available here.
GDRI Ecosystem Health and Environmental Disease Ecology
20 October 2016
The GDRI Ecosystem health and environmental disease ecology (GDRI EHEDE) program (http://gdri-ehede.univ-fcomte.fr) was created in 2013. Supported by the French CNRS, its objective is to promote exchanges and bring better legibility to collaborative research in Asia, Europe and North America, linking ecosystem health (e.g. the long-term sustainability of ecological processes and the integrity of ecosystem services) and disease ecology (e.g. the processes by which diseases can sustain or be controlled in a given ecosystem).
It is based on the principles of EcoHealth and aims to use the momentum that has been gained by fruitful cooperation between European and Asian researchers for more than 20 years to move ahead and develop conditions where researcher in conservation biology, population ecology, human and animal health can meet, develop their own research, exchange and cooperate in a multi-disciplinary framework. We consider it essential to develop parallel paths, bridges and sustainable long-term interactions between disciplines that can contribute to ecohealth studies. This program brings together researchers from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom.
Transdisciplinary dialogue among Maya communities on zoonoses
14 September 2016
Together with Prof. Brigit Obrist, Dept. of Anthroplogy, University of Basel and partners from the Universita del Valle, Guatemala, Jakob Zinsstag, president of IAEH, visited a new project site in Peten, Guatemala.
The project aims to implement a transdisciplinary dialogue on surveillance and control of zoonoses among Maya communities.
The BeneFISHiary Mobile App for Bermuda: Linking food safety to environmental sustainability in a consumer-friendly way
26 July 2016
Many media stories have supported claims about both the risks and benefits of fish consumption. This leads to much interest, but also some confusion regarding whether it’s safe to consume fish – especially for pregnant women and for children.
BeneFISHiary is a mobile “app” that helps users make informed decisions about the fish they eat. Developed for Bermudians, who are strongly connected to the marine environment that surrounds them, BeneFISHiary provides the best evidence-based information available on local and imported fish regarding their average mercury and nutrient (omega-3 fatty acids and selenium) concentrations. Users can also learn more on the environmental sustainability of various fish species found in the seas that surround Bermuda.
The creators of this app are a multidisciplinary team including an epidemiologist from the University of Hawai‘i (Dr. Catherine Pirkle), an anthropologist and conservationist (Dr. Philippe Rouja), and a designer who specializes in creating interactive stories powered by technologies (Mr. Tidjane Tall). The inspiration for BeneFISHiary originated from concerns about communication gaps between the Bermuda Department of Health, healthcareproviders on the islands, and pregnant women.
Sustainable development in practice at the Montreal University Mental Health Institute
27 May 2016
The Montreal University Mental Health Institute (MUMHI) formerly known as Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine (HLHL) is the largest mental health hospital in the Province of Québec, Canada. This hospital has established in 2009 a sustainable development committee including representative members of the different departments, whose role is to coordinate the application of the action plan of the hospital in the domain of sustainable development, and to sensitize the employees and the patients about the challenges, main targets and accomplishments.
The mandate of the committee takes into account the principles of the Quebec law in the field of sustainable development at the environmental, social and economic levels. The progress made in implementing changes is monitored periodically, and various tools are used to inform people, including via the intranet and through diverse activities, such as organized visits of the green innovations inside the hospital, and public conferences. Among the most remarkable achievements of the last 2 or 3 years, the budget dedicated to office supplies has been reduced by 20% , the use of 10 oz and 6 oz styrofoam glasses has been reduced by 30% and 40%, respectively. Moreover, the composting of food waste has increased from 483 kg at the beginning in December 2012, to as much as 1,046 to 1,827 kg per month in the period of January-December 2013.
These realizations illustrate the notion that relatively simple and realistic changes can lead to huge impact in favor of sustainable development at the local level of a health institution. Challenging issues remain, including the need to reduce the use of paper by increasing the use of electronic devices whenever possible, the optimization of the paper used for printing or photocopying, and the use and management of medical/pharmaceutical products and waste.
Next Time you Drink a Margarita Raise Your Glass to the Bats that Made it Possible
12 February 2016
Bats are much maligned with their age-old association with Dracula, vampires and rabies to more modern concerns, such as the proposed source of several emerging viral diseases including Ebola virus, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, and Nipah virus, to name a few. Yet, what is less known is the important role that bats play in providing ecosystem services and the fact bats are also victim to one of the most devastating wildlife diseases ever discovered.
Bats are a unique group of mammals of the order Chiroptera whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true flight. They are also the second largest order of mammals (after rodents), representing about 20% of all classified mammal species worldwide, with over 1,300 species. Bats are present throughout most of the world, with the exception of the cold, polar regions. The majority of bat species are insectivores, and the remainder is mostly frugivorous, with a few specialist feeders such as the vampire bats that feed on blood. Given the wide distribution and the fact they occupy many ecological niches, bats play important roles in providing ecosystem services. Fruit and nectar-feeding bats are critical pollinators for a wide variety of plants of economic and ecological value, including the agave plant from which tequila is made. In addition, many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of seeds. And bats are primary consumers of insects, many of which are pests for forest products and agricultural crops. A recent economic analysis indicated that insect suppression services provided by bats to U.S. agriculture is valued between $4 to 50 billion dollars per year.
Unfortunately, bats are victims of diseases too, and for the past decade we have witnessed devastating losses of species of bats in North America due to white-nose syndrome (WNS). White-nose syndrome is an emerging disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 25 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. The disease is named for the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats. The fungus was discovered through innovative scientific detective work by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. Pseudogymnoascus destructans, is a recently described, cold loving fungus, and this is first time a species from this genus has been identified as a pathogen of vertebrate species.
Biodiversity and Disease Emergence: A Brazil Case Study
21 January 2016
Land – use change in Brazil is a clear threat to biodiversity. We conducted project activities in two regions of Brazil: the Atlantic Forest and the Brazilian Amazon. Along with University of São Paulo and EcoHealth Alliance our team investigate the mechanisms underlying disease emergence by assessing the impacts of land use change, the types and degrees of human – wildlife contact, and viral diversity assessing bat host population. The team was composed by veterinarians, epidemiologists, social scientists and ecologists. In the Atlantic Forest, we worked in Pontal do Paranapanema. This area is located in the extreme western part of the Atlantic Forest in São Paulo State and is one of the most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world (Myers, et al. 2000).
The process of forest fragmentation in the region is relatively recent beginning about 50 years ago, but only 17% of the original biome remains in a matrix composed mainly of pastures and sugar cane plantations. The Forest was replaced by farms, and more recently, with Landless Workers Movement become a matrix of small properties (10 ha ) along with farms. Therefore, we have important forest patches and a State Park – Morro do Diabo under high human pressure, posing many kinds of threats – hunting, pesticides and deforestation.
Despite its environmental importance, the park and the Forest patches are under intense anthropic pressure, changing the natural cycles of disease.
In the Brazilian Amazon, we faced a different dynamic, were the deforestation process is on going, and the human – animal contact has a different interaction from Brazilian Atlantic Forest. The information generated with this project will give a better understanding of human-animal contact, as well as how fragmentation influences host diversity and viral diversity. These information are critical to understand how zoonotic infections emerge and spread.
Advancing Ecohealth in Southeast Asia
6 January 2016
Intensification of crop and livestock production can improve food, nutrition, and income security; however, without sustainable resource management, intensification can also lead to increased agricultural-related health risks, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss. This is especially true in Southeast Asia, a region facing rapid economic growth. To address this complex challenge, a better understand of the interactions between agricultural practices, human health, and ecosystems are required.
The Field Building Leadership Initiative (FBLI), supported by IDRC, aims to explore linkages between intensive agricultural practices and human health in Southeast Asia.Developed jointly by research centres in China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, and launched in 2012, this five-year initiative allows researchers and their partners to carry out research, capacity building, policy advocacy and networking to inform agricultural practice and policy. Generating scientific evidence can help mitigate health risks while maintaining the socio-economic advantages of agricultural intensification.
IAEH president visits Umnugobi Province
10 December 2015
The President of IAEH visits Umnugobi Province in Mongolia while
supervising Bolor Bold, a Mongolian medical doctor at the National Centre
of Zoonotic Disease, working on echinococcosis control. Umnugobi, which is
the southern part of the Gobi desert in Mongolia has one of the highest
incidences of echinococcosis in Mongolia. The project aims to understand
current treatment algorithms of echinococcosis and then to improve clinical
care. At a later stage, control at the source is foreseen, but a better
understanding of the disease ecology is necessary to recognize the most
important reservoirs and intermediary hosts. For example, it is not currently known what role camels play in the transmission of echinococcosis. [Read more]
Jakob Zinsstag is deputy head of department at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and President of the IAEH. He is interested in the health of mobile pastoralists and zoonoses control in Africa and Asia.
Dialogue event on non-communicable and communicable diseases in Hanoi
2. April 2015
Vietnam is in a rapid epidemiological transition and confronted with a dual burden of disease of communicable and non-communicable diseases. The Hanoi School of Public Health has organized a two day workshop from March 24 to 25, 2015 to discuss with partners from research institutions and NGOs, including the Novartis Foundation and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.