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Global Research Highlights 2015: oneHEALTH

More than 20 global research projects have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning, to Future Earth from three previous global environmental change programmes: the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimension Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and DIVERSITAS. For years and, in many cases, decades, these projects have generated critical research on the planet's land, oceans and atmosphere and its past and current climate and peoples. They will continue to produce valuable knowledge about the globe under Future Earth.

Over the next weeks, Future Earth will publish a series of posts to highlight some of the research and successes that emerged from these projects in the past year. Check back in often to learn about pollution in the Arctic, small-scale fisheries around the globe, worldwide disaster risk and more.

Today, we feature the oneHEALTH project, which was formerly called ecoHEALTH.

What’s new with oneHEALTH?

In 2015, oneHEALTH focused on bridging the disciplinary silos that are often pervasive in research and action around health, environment and agriculture. That was evident at the “Our Common Future Under Climate Change” conference in Paris in July. There, researchers presented on how experts can simultaneously tackle emerging infectious diseases and the negative health effects of climate change through integrated solutions that address the common drivers of these phenomena.

Authors from the oneHEALTH project also reviewed an array of scientific research around the many ways that climate change may harm human health now and in the upcoming decades. In their paper, which was written in collaboration with experts United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Bank and leading health and sustainability organisations, the authors took a holistic approach: oneHEALTH argued that both the causes and the outcomes of climate change present implications for health, including through heat waves, air pollution, deforestation, droughts and intensifying tropical storms. Nearly 70,000 people, for instance, died across Europe when severe heat waves struck the continent in 2003.

More frequent extreme weather events associated with climate change also threaten food and water security and may disproportionally affect vulnerable populations, such as subsistence farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The new paper was released in the journal Annals of Global Health in the lead up to the Paris Climate Conference in December. In it, the authors  issued a call to action, writing: “To truly get ahead of long-term health outcomes, a more preventative approach will be needed – one that tackles upstream drivers in new and effective ways.” That includes broadening the definition of public health, including researchers and others working around issues like climate change, air pollution, biodiversity loss and more.

oneHEALTH’s societal partners

In 2015, oneHEALTH collaborated with a wide range of partners, including United Nations agencies, academic and non-governmental organisations, with collaborators from all continents except Antarctica. The project, for instance, collaborated alongside partners from the UN Development Programme, EcoHealth Alliance, World Bank and others on event in New York called “African Livestock Futures,” held to support discussions around the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development agenda during the UN General Assembly. The event raised awareness about the connections between food security, health, climate and sustainability in Africa. oneHEALTH researchers also worked closely with partners from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in support of the CBD-World Health Organization Joint Work Programme, contributing to the landmark publication “Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health, a State of Knowledge Review.”

What is oneHEALTH doing next?

Cows graze in a dusty pasture in South Africa. Photo: EcoHealth Alliance

oneHEALTH looks forward to continued these collaborations, as well as building new opportunities to expand its outreach and strengthen science, policy and capacity outputs in 2016. The project recently participating in a conference called “Avoiding Catastrophe: Linking Armed Conflict, Harm to Ecosystems and Public Health” in Montreal. oneHEALTH will also play a crucial role in the development of the Future Earth Health Knowledge-Action Network. As part of that effort, the project co-organised a meeting in Bellagio, Italy, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation on linking environmental and health data for more coordinated understanding and action. In December, project researchers will participate in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 13th Conference of the Parties, providing technical information and ideas for solutions around the links between health and biodiversity.

Some of oneHEALTH’s 2015 publications

Machalaba, C., Romanelli, C., Stoett, P., Baum, S. E., Bouley, T. A., Daszak, P. and Karesh, W. B. (2015). Climate Change and Health: Transcending Silos to Find Solutions. Ann Glob Health 81(3), 445-458. DOI:10.1016/j.aogh.2015.08.002

Machalaba, C. C., Daszak, P., Karesh, W. B. and Shrivastava, P. (2015). Future Earth and EcoHealth: A New Paradigm Toward Global Sustainability and Health. EcoHealth, 12(4), 553-554. DOI:10.1007/s10393-015-1076-6

Machalaba, C. and Porter, V. Urbanization and Infections: Hidden links to rural settings. UGEC Viewpoints. November 24, 2015.

World Health Organization and Convention on Biological Diversity. (2015). Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health, a State of Knowledge Review. Genève and Montréal. [Karesh, W. B., Daszak, P. and Machalaba, C. lead or contributing authors for chapters 1,2,7 and 16]

Machalaba, C. C., Karesh, W. B. (2015) Envisioning a World without Emerging Disease Outbreaks. Solutions 6(2): 63-71.

Further information on oneHEALTH

Contact: Catherine Machalaba


Instagram: @futureearthhealth