Conduct Applied Research

HEAL’s applied research program addresses critical knowledge gaps through rigorous scientific inquiry, seeking to more comprehensively characterize how ecosystem change affects human health.

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The principal purpose of this approach is to test whether and under what conditions ‘health’ can be considered an ecosystem-provided benefit. Along with innovative research strategies, this will require a melding of ecological, social, and economic approaches and tools.

This is an exciting new field that is largely unexplored, with many more questions than answers. It is by definition an interdisciplinary area that has enormous potential applicability both for public health and for conservation. By incorporating social equity, resilience, and cost implications, HEAL will be able to provide information of real use to policymakers – particularly those in ministries of finance, health, and environment.

For the global health community, HEAL will demonstrate how “upstream”  conservation to maintain ecosystem “goods and services” and biodiversity fits within existing health promotion approaches. A complicated but essential next  step is to expand the understanding of terms such as health care and environmental health to explicitly incorporate the role of natural systems. And for the conservation community, moving increasingly towards stronger incorporation of human needs, this program will provide vital information on the relationships between ecosystem conservation and public health.

The HEAL program modules have been designed to evaluate what appear to be key linkages at the interface between health and the environment by conducting applied research on the relationships between (for example):

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    © Chris Golden

    Access to wildlife and human nutrition: Subsistence hunters’ sustainable access to wildlife and children’s nutritional needs (especially in the first thousand days for cognitive and physical development).

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    Catchment management and waterborne bacterial disease / coral reef health: Upland deforestation and erosion on islands like Fiji and waterborne diarrheal diseases such as typhoid in children, and downstream coral reef health and productivity.

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    Land-use change and malaria: Deforestation patterns and malaria in the Amazon and other major forest systems.

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    Fire-based land management and cardio-pulmonary disease: Fires used to clear land in Sumatra and smoke-related cardiopulmonary illness in the broader downwind Southeast Asian “healthshed”.

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    Marine protected areas and community well-being: Community access to marine protected areas, food security, income to purchase health services, and the psychological dimensions of having a “sense of place” related to secure coastal resource tenure.

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