Ecohealth meet raises alarm over climate change impacts on health

Decalration calls for practical steps to change the economic, political and social practices that exacerbate climate change

By Rajit Sengupta
Published: Friday 22 August 2014


The recently concluded 5th biennial conference of the International Association for Ecology & Health (IAEH) in Canada has called for urgent collaborative efforts to address the impacts of climate change on the health of humans, animals and the global environment.

“Whether people acknowledge it or not, climate and other global environmental changes are already affecting our health through extreme weather events, newly emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases such as dengue and Ebola, and heart and respiratory problems linked to toxics in the environment,” said IAEH president Jakob Zinsstag. “These are exactly the problems that ecohealth experts have addressed at this conference by connecting health, ecosystems and society and working directly with communities where the relationships of people and their environment are out of balance.”

“Ecohealth is a field of research, education and practice that integrates scientific evidence… and community experience with a view to improving the health of humans, animals and ecosystems,” the conference declaration says.

The 500 delegates from 62 countries agreed that “a focus on health—across humans, animals and other species—offers new opportunities to harness synergies across disparate efforts to address climate change”.

The declaration says it is intended to push more researchers to address climate change-related problems through concrete actions such as working directly with communities most affected by climate change, for example, those on small island states. And local communities can be key to research data collection, the conference heard repeatedly.

“The ecohealth community is called upon to take practical steps to change the economic, political and social practices that exacerbate climate change, and produce its inequitable impacts,” the declaration reads.

The Ecohealth 2014 conference has hence asked the international community to plant more trees to improve air quality, orient research directly towards communities worst affected by climate change and reduce dependency on fossil fuel. It has said climate change can be arrested only if all the organisations “work directly with each other”.

The next biennial EcoHealth meeting will be held in Melbourne, Australia, in December 2016.

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