Women waiting to fetch water as cattle drink from a water pan in Taita Taveta, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/ Juliet Kariuki)

Ecohealth approaches are designed to promote the health of people, animals and ecosystems with attention to social and ecological justice, sustainability and the relationships required to achieve a healthy future. Ecohealth approaches rely on systems thinking and the complementary efforts of transdisciplinary teams.

For the last 15 years, the global ecohealth community has been bringing together individuals and organizations to discuss ecohealth approaches. This year, the eighth biennial ecohealth conference will be held in Durban, South Africa on 22–26 June 2020. 

Participants at ecohealth 2020 are expected to include researchers, policymakers, community leaders, postgraduate students, government departments and non-governmental organizations working on ecohealth approaches towards sustainable management of the health of people, animals and ecosystems.

The organizers of the conference have extended the deadline for the submission of abstracts to 25 March 2020

To register and submit an abstract, please visit https://ecohealth2020.co.za.

Photo credit: Women waiting to fetch water as cattle drink from a water pan in Taita Taveta, Kenya (ILRI/ Juliet Kariuki)

Hung Nguyen-Viet receives the 2016 International Association for Ecology and Health 'Exceptional Early Career Contribution to the Field of EcoHealth' award

Hung Nguyen-Viet (left) receives the 2016 International Association for Ecology and Health (IEAH) ‘Exceptional Early Career Contribution to the Field of EcoHealth’ award from former IEAH president Jakob Zinsstag (photo credit: ILRI/Tarni Cooper).

Hung Nguyen-Viet, a senior scientist in food safety and ecohealth at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was named the winner of the 2016 International Association for Ecology and Health (IAEH) Exceptional Early Career Contribution to the Field of EcoHealth Award together with Jonathan Kingsley of the University of Melbourne.

IAEH is a scholarly organization whose membership is drawn from all continents. Its mission is to strive for sustainable health of people, wildlife and ecosystems by promoting discovery, understanding and transdisciplinarity.

The award was given in recognition of Hung’s leadership, mentorship, research and writing on topics of domestic and global significance, including health, agriculture, food safety and infectious and zoonotic diseases at ILRI and at the Center for Public Health and Ecosystem Research (CENPHER), Hanoi University of Public Health.

Hung received the award at the closing ceremony of the 4th International One Health Congress and 6th IAEH Biennial Congress held in Melbourne, Australia on 3–7 December 2016.

“I strongly believe that ecohealth and One Health are good approaches to address complex health and environmental problems,” said Hung in his acceptance speech.

“Let us all work together and advance ecohealth,” he urged his colleagues.

Hung is a Vietnamese national and holds a PhD in Life and Environmental Sciences from Besançon, France. He co-founded and led CENPHER where he has been coordinating a regional program called Ecohealth Field Building Leadership Initiative in Southeast Asia from 2012 to 2016. In addition to his research role at ILRI, he is the institute’s acting regional representative for East and Southeast Asia based in Hanoi. He is also an honorary professor at Hanoi University of Public Health.

Congratulations, Hung!

Brucellosis (undulant fever) is a zoonotic disease of growing  public health concern in many Asian countries. Challenges in controlling the disease include lack of collaboration between sectors and uncontrolled animal movement.

In China, Yunnan Province is at particular risk as ruminants are increasingly introduced to the province from other parts of the country in response to increasing demand for milk.

To better control the disease, new approaches are needed to support cross-sector collaboration in China’s animal health control system.

The transdisciplinary ‘ecohealth’ approach to prevention and control of zoonoses was used in an International Livestock Research Institute-led project, Ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia.

The project’s findings on the ecohealth approach to control of brucellosis in Yunnan were presented at this year’s Tropentag conference which took place in Vienna, Austria on 19-21 September 2016.



Edited by Tezira Lore


Hung Nguyen and Johanna Lindahl at One Health/EcoHealth seminar

ILRI scientists Hung Nguyen and Johanna Lindahl (fifth and sixth from right) at a One Health/EcoHealth seminar on capacity building in India (photo credit: Public Health Foundation in India).

One Health and EcoHealth approaches have gained a foothold in Southeast Asia in recent years, especially in Vietnam. In India, One Health/EcoHealth approaches have also been adopted, and the goal of the agencies and research institutes in the country is to strengthen capacity building for those involved in the livestock sector, particularly smallholder farmers, to respond to threats of zoonotic diseases.

To promote One Health/EcoHealth mainstreaming in India, two scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently participated in two seminars in New Delhi to share their research experiences that can be useful for India’s efforts at mainstreaming One Health/EcoHealth capacity building in the country.

Hung Nguyen-Viet, ILRI acting regional representative for East and Southeast Asia, food safety scientist and…

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Catch of the day, Khulna, Bangladesh. Photo by Yousuf Tushar.

Catch of the day, Khulna, Bangladesh. Fish are among the aquatic hosts of microsporidia, a group of emerging foodborne parasites. (photo credit: WorldFish/Yousuf Tushar).

In December 2015, the World Health Organization published a report of the first ever global and regional estimates of the burden of foodborne diseases.

The report estimates the burden of foodborne diseases caused by 31 agents – bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals – and shows that almost 1 in 10 people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food and 420,000 die as a result.

Children under five years of age are at particularly high risk, with 125,000 children dying from foodborne diseases every year. Africa and Southeast Asia have the highest burden of foodborne diseases.

Microsporidia are among the many contributors to the global burden of foodborne disease, although they are not currently considered to be priority foodborne parasites.

Microsporidia are a group of spore-forming parasites that infect a wide range of host organisms, including humans. People can get infected with microsporidia through ingesting contaminated food and water. People with weakened immune systems are at particularly high risk of infection.

To address the growing threat of this emerging group of pathogens, a group of experts met at a symposium entitled “Microsporidia in the animal to human food chain: An international symposium to address chronic epizootic disease”. The meeting was sponsored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and held in Vancouver, Canada in August 2015.

Kristina Roesel, a scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), presented a paper entitled “Parasites in food chains”. Her presentation contributed to a collaborative review article, “Microsporidia – Emergent pathogens in the global food chain”, published in the journal Trends in Parasitology (18 Jan 2016).

The article examines the threat of microsporidia in food, water and major food production chains. The authors note that climate change may result in a greater disease burden in hosts from all environments and thus increase the contact rate between infected animals and humans. A One Health approach will, therefore, be useful to manage the risks of microsporidian infections in wildlife, food animals and humans.

Livestock graze on an island in the Niger

Livestock grazing on an island in the River Niger, as seen off a bridge in Niger’s capital, Niamey (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The livestock sector contributes significantly to the global economy and to rural livelihoods. Globally, approximately one billion smallholder farmers keep livestock. However, the burden of animal disease in developing countries is high; livestock disease kills 20% of ruminants and over 50% of poultry each year, causing annual losses of approximately USD 300 billion.

A new report on climate and livestock disease by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) shows that climate change can increase the burden of livestock diseases, and some diseases like Rift Valley fever and trypanosomosis are especially sensitive to climate change.

Climate change may also have indirect effects on animal diseases, for example, higher temperatures and greater humidity can lead to faster development of disease-causing parasites and pathogens.

In order to address climate impacts on the livestock sector, the authors make the following recommendations for policymakers:

  • Invest in ‘no regret’ adaptation responses. Many adaptation responses based on improving the control of climate-sensitive livestock diseases are ‘no regret’ options, which, by reducing the burden of livestock disease, will enhance community resilience, alleviate poverty and address global inequity irrespective of climate change.
  • Improve disease surveillance and response in order to detect changes in disease in a timely way, thus dramatically reducing the costs of response. This requires investment and innovation in disease reporting systems as well as laboratories capable of confirming diseases. Risk-based and participatory surveillance are promising options for improving disease reporting.
  • Increase the capacity to forecast near term occurrence of climate-sensitive diseases, and to predict longer-term distribution of diseases through better epidemiological information and ground-truthed models.
  • Improve animal health service delivery by investing in the public sector and supporting innovations in the private sector such as community animal health workers linked to private veterinarians. Promote One Health and ecohealth approaches to disease control, especially in vulnerable communities with high reliance on livestock (for example, pastoralists in East Africa).
  • Support the eradication of priority diseases where this is economically justified. Develop diagnostics and vaccines, and promote adoption of good practices and strengthened biosecurity to improve disease control.
  • Increase the resilience of livestock systems by supporting diversification of livestock and livelihoods, and integrating livestock farming with agriculture. Consider promotion of species and breeds that are more resistant to disease and climate change.
  • Adopt breeding strategies focused on identifying and improving breeds that are better adapted to climate change impacts and disease.
  • Understand the potential land use changes in response to climate change and monitor their impacts on animal disease to allow preventive or remedial actions.

The report was submitted to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ahead of a special workshop on agriculture at the 42nd session of the SBSTA held on 1-11 June 2015 in Bonn, Germany.

An information note, Impact of climate change on African agriculture: focus on pests and diseases, gives a summary of the submission.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition (A4NH) supported the preparation of the report.

Grace D, Bett B, Lindahl J and Robinson T. 2015. Climate and livestock disease: assessing the vulnerability of agricultural systems to livestock pests under climate change scenarios. CCAFS Working Paper No. 116. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming of western Kenya

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming of western Kenya. The EcoHealth 2014 conference will discuss ecohealth research under the theme ‘Connections for health, ecosystems and society’ (photo credit: ILRI/Charlie Pye-Smith).

A group of scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will join hundreds of ecohealth researchers from all over the world for the fifth biennial conference of the International Association for Ecology and Health which begins today, 11 August 2014, in Montréal, Canada.

Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, gives a keynote address on 13 August and several ILRI scientists will give oral and poster presentations. Delia Grace and Johanna Lindahl from ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses program will lead a special session on integrative approaches to disease modelling.

The four-day conference, dubbed EcoHealth 2014, is co-hosted by the Canadian Community of Practice in EcoHealth and the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Well-Being, Health, Society and Environment of the Université du Québec at Montréal. The overall theme of the conference is ‘Connections for health, ecosystems and society’.

The three main sub-themes of the conference are:

  • Drivers of change to health, ecosystems and society: Integrating understanding from global to local scales
  • Innovations in theory, methods and practice
  • Moving between research and action: Mobilizing knowledge to benefit health, ecosystems, and society

In addition to the keynote addresses and presentations during plenary, parallel and poster sessions, the conference will hold an international discussion forum on 12 August. The discussion forum is a combined webinar and face-to-face activity that will focus on the conference statement addressing ‘Ecohealth and Climate Change’.

The webinar will involve a panel of international discussants (offsite and onsite) who will address synergies, connections and next steps relevant to the conference statement and their work. Two webinar sessions are planned in order to optimize participation across time-zones.

Register for the webinar

Find out more about the conference

Live chicken vendor

A live chicken vendor weighs a chicken in Hung Yen province, Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Nguyen Ngoc Huyen).

More than 6 out of 10 human infectious diseases are zoonotic (can be passed from animals to people). Southeast Asia is considered one of the hotspot areas for the emergence of zoonotic diseases. The rapid growth of economies and human populations have led to livestock intensification, land use changes and disruption in wildlife habitats, all of which are ideal for the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

From 2008 to 2013, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) led an action research project on zoonotic diseases in six countries in Southeast Asia: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

Each country team comprised individuals and institutions with knowledge of ecohealth, representing multiple disciplines carrying out research on zoonotic emerging diseases. The project aimed to build ecohealth capacity and learn about the process of adopting the ecohealth approach in the country contexts.

The project has published three new policy briefs that highlight some of the key outcomes on stakeholder engagement processes, raising awareness of zoonotic diseases, and capacity building in One Health and ecohealth in Southeast Asia.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) funded the project.

Visit the project website for more information

Morning milking in Rajasthan, India

Morning milking in Rajasthan, India. Regional experts have called for appropriate One Health approaches to improve the prevention and control of zoonoses and agriculture-associated diseases in South Asia (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

On 25 November 2013, a regional multi-stakeholder forum on One Health/Ecohealth, with special emphasis on agriculture-associated diseases, was held in New Delhi, India. The event brought together some 50 high-level representatives from the human, animal and environmental health sectors, including international donors, policymakers, developmental agencies and researchers.

Among the several issues discussed was the need for a centralized body or coordination mechanism to address the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases in the South Asia region. With regard to disease surveillance and reporting, it was felt that in countries like India which follow a ‘top-down’ approach, there is need to also incorporate community-based ‘bottom-up’ surveillance that focuses not just on reporting but also on development.

Several participants drew attention to the need to develop robust estimates on how much zoonotic diseases are currently costing the public and private sectors. In order to be able to convince policymakers to invest in One Health, there is need to provide estimates of the full cost of disease and the cost of different options for reducing it.

One of the suggestions put forward to add value to One Health efforts was to document best practices – with clear pointers to what worked well and what did not – and share these lessons with states and regions who could adapt them to suit their local contexts. This is important as because there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to One Health.

The stakeholder forum was organized by the South Asia office of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and supported by the International Association for Ecology and Health, the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and the Public Health Foundation of India.

Access the workshop report

A poster based on research led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) towards improving productivity and food safety in smallholder pig value chains in Uganda won the Best Poster award at the Africa 2013 EcoHealth Conference held in Côte d’Ivoire on 1-5 October 2013.

The poster, Assessment of knowledge, attitudes and practices on pork safety among smallholder pig farmers in Uganda, was prepared by Kristina Roesel, a PhD student at Freie Universität Berlin and coordinator of the ILRI-led Safe Food, Fair Food project.

The study was carried out by the Safe Food, Fair Food project in collaboration with the Smallholder Pig Value Chains Development in Uganda project.