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Vector-borne disease

deaths from vector-borne disease map

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Linking health and environment in integrated vector management

New strategies for prevention and control of vector-borne diseases are emphasizing "Integrated Vector Management" – as an approach that reinforces linkages between health and environment, optimizing benefits to both.

The most deadly vector borne disease, Malaria, kills over 1.2 million people annually, mostly African children under the age of five. Dengue fever, together with associated dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), is the world's fastest growing vector borne disease.

Poorly designed irrigation and water systems, inadequate housing, poor waste disposal and water storage, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, all may be contributing factors to the most common vector-borne diseases including malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis.

IVM strategies are designed to achieve the greatest disease control benefit in the most cost-effective manner, while minimizing negative impacts on ecosystems (e.g. depletion of biodiversity) and adverse side-effects on public health from the excessive use of chemicals in vector control.

Rather than relying on a single method of vector control, IVM stresses the importance of first understanding the local vector ecology and local patterns of disease transmission, and then choosing the appropriate vector control tools, from the range of options available.

These include environmental management strategies that can reduce or eliminate vector breeding grounds altogether through improved design or operation of water resources development projects as well as use of biological controls (e.g. bacterial larvicides and larvivorous fish) that target and kill vector larvae without generating the ecological impacts of chemical use.

At the same time, when other measures are ineffective or not cost-effective, IVM makes judicious use of chemical methods of vector control, such as indoor residual sprays, space spraying, and use of chemical larvicides and adulticides; these reduce disease transmission by shortening or interrupting the lifespan of vectors.

IVM provides a framework for improved personal protection and preventive strategies that combine environmental management and chemical tools for new synergies; e.g. insecticide-treated nets (ITNs). IVM also stresses the importance of effective disease diagnosis and treatment, and a multi-disease control approach.

IVM requires a multi-sectoral approach to vector-borne disease control. For instance Health Impact Assessments of new infrastructure development, e.g. water resource, irrigation and agriculture, can help identify potential impacts on vector-borne disease upstream of major policy decisions so effective action may be taken.

IVM is not a panacea. However, in many settings, the use of IVM strategies has yielded sustainable reductions in disease and transmission rates. In addition, certain IVM field experiences have been documented as cost-effective in terms of disease control, and potential generators of economic co-benefits in terms of development and growth – although more work needs to be done linking health and economic outcomes.

Links to resources

Malaria control: the power of integrated action
This policy brief describes key experiences with IVM of relevance to malaria control, with reference economic costs and benefits as well as health outcomes.

Better environmental management for control of dengue
This brief describes how new scientific insights into dengue vector ecology and disease transmission, together with more targeted use of environmental management strategies, may improve the potential for combating dengue fever.

Vector borne disease illustration
FAO/10723/P. Gigli; UNEP/Topham


Work on IVM takes place within a broad range of disease control and environmental protection activities within the UN system, and elsewhere. For links to web-accessible resources addressing various aspects of the issues, please refer to the directory below, in the appropriate section. For information and links specifically to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Health Organization (WHO), and other UN agency portals, programmes and publications, please see the related keywords

Overview of IVM
Case-studies of IVM experiences
Economic impacts and economic evaluation
Training/capacity building
Advocacy and community participation
Surveillance and monitoring of indicators and trends
Related health and environment conventions, legal agreements, and strategic policies
United Nations Environment Programme, World Health Organization, and other United Nations agency links
Other organizational links
Selection criteria and disclaimer


Health and Environment: Managing the Linkages for Sustainable Development

Ecosystems and human well-being: Health synthesis

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Health/environment journals on line





Health & environment: tools for effective decision-making

Health & environment: tools for effective decision-making

The WHO-UNEP Health and Environment Linkages Initiative (HELI): Review of initial findings

Information package in environmental and occupational health

Information package in environmental and occupational health

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