EcoHealth field evolving: TDR at international conference in China

TDR news item
26 October 2012

The field of ecohealth is growing rapidly, given the recent attendance at the Fourth Biennial Conference of the International Association for Ecology and Health, “Sustaining Ecosystems, Supporting Health”. More than 450 participants from 62 countries convened from 15-18 October 2012 in Kunming, People’s Republic of China. TDR scientist Johannes Sommerfeld, who also is an editorial advisor to the journal EcoHealth, gave several talks at this conference.

For the past ten years, TDR has been partnering with the Ecosystems to Human Health (EcoHealth) Programme of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada, fostering trans-disciplinary research on dengue in Asia and on dengue and Chagas disease in Latin America and the Caribbean. Within TDR, a new unit on Vectors, Environment and Society reflects this emerging research agenda.

One of Dr Sommerfeld’s talks presented the TDR/IDRC research initiatives in Asia, Latin America and Africa on dengue, Chagas disease and the control of climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases in Africa. This work highlights how vector-borne diseases emerge and persist in dynamic “eco-bio-social” contexts and brings together different disciplines together to bridge perspectives from the medical, public health, biosciences and/or social sciences.

A second talk supported a new research initiative of the EcoHealth Asia network on infectious disease hotspots. The network started as an off-spring of the TDR research initiative on Eco-Bio-Social Research on Dengue in Asia and recently received a major IDRC grant to pursue this new research within IDRC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases programme. Infectious disease hotspots in Southeast Asia, often in tourist destinations, emerge because of unplanned urbanization, industrialization, development and migration, coupled with deforestation and destruction of natural resources and wildlife.

A third talk contributed to another research programme supported by IDRC on emerging infectious diseases and addressed social factors in the emergence of food-borne diseases in people and animals (zoonotic diseases).

A number of ecohealth networks and field building leadership initiatives were present at the conference. A trans-regional network meeting brought together representatives from South and Southeast Asia; Eastern, Southern, Western and Central Africa; Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss the prospects of trans-regional networking to improve communication and learning among the groups.

The conference’s closing plenary on building the future of this field was given by Mario Henry Rodriguez, who is TDR’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee chair, and a researcher at the Center for Research for Infectious Diseases at National Institute of Public Health in Mexico.

The growth in these international conferences and number of networks suggests that the field of ecohealth has made important progress and is rapidly evolving.

For more information, please contact:

Johannes Sommerfeld