In reviewing last year’s EcoHealth conference in Montreal, Dr Jonathan Kingsley, Research Fellow at The University of Melbourne, also gives a taster of a conference heading to Melbourne next year.

Jonathan Kingsley writes:

Professor Kerry Arabena and I had the privilege of attending the 5th Biennial Conference of the International Association for Ecology and Public Health last year. Five hundred delegates from over sixty countries came together in Montreal for EcoHealth2014 to discuss Connections for Health, Ecosystems and Society.

Ecohealth refers to research that is transdisciplinary acknowledging that health is intricately linked to the complex interaction of ecosystem, socio-cultural and economic factors. Kerry and I tweeted for @WePublicHealth to communicate the tastes, sounds, musings and sentiments evoked at EcoHealth2014.


The strength of the Oceania EcoHealth Chapter

On the fourth day of the conference, the Oceania EcoHealth Chapter delivered a session showcasing diverse experiences from across Oceania, with presenters including Professor Helen Moewaka Barnes, Professor Pierre Horwitz  and Aaron Jenkins  (who won the best student presentation prize at EcoHealth2014).

They presented on marine science, disaster management, water health and Indigenous environmental knowledge. This session emphasised that, whilst Oceania is diverse in reference to cultures, animal populations and ecosystems, there is a need for both regional and place-based approaches to ensure population health and environmental sustainability.

This Oceania EcoHealth Chapter discussion prompted me to further explore ideas expressed in The Lancet’s 2014 manifesto ‘from public to planetary health’, which urged public health clinicians to become planetary health specialists based on improving understandings of ecosystems and applying local and holistic approaches to health and environmental management.

The strength of the Oceania EcoHealth Chapter is in providing a regional tool and platform for discussion to tackle emerging environmental and health issues.

Merging EcoHealth and One Health

At the closing of EcoHealth2014, Professor Martyn Jaggo announced that EcoHealth2016 would be held in Melbourne. This event will be unique, as it will be the first time that One Health and EcoHealth merge their conferences. One Health links human, animal and environmental health together.

The 4th International One Health Congress and The 6th Biennial Congress of the International Association for Ecology and Health in December 2016 promises to offer a unique opportunity for alignment of these overlapping fields.

Care must be taken, however, to recognise individuals, organisations and communities who don’t define themselves as One Health or EcoHealth specialists, but work in this space, so these critical voices can be heard.

Two inspiring speakers

At the opening of the conference The Welcome to Traditional Lands was inspiring but also controversial, as Stuart Myiow (of the Traditional Mohawk Council) urged us to reconsider how we view the planet, whilst asserting that women are the key to future progress of society.

In that same session Keynote speaker Dr François Reeves, a Cardiologist, linked air pollution with increased blood pressure, childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Both speakers broke down the importance of environments to human health, presenting compelling evidence from a medical worldview and Indigenous perspective.

What this emphasised to me was that no matter if we are talking about EcoHealth or One Health, a diversity of perspectives are required to effectively tackle global environmental and health issues.

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