EcoHealth, like GHI, calls for climate/health action

Communities and scientists from across disciplines must collaborate to address climate change, ensure a livable world and provide health and well-being for future generations, the International Association for Ecology and Health declared at its 5th Biennial EcoHealth Conference Aug. 11-15 in Montreal, Canada.

The declaration mirrors the commitment made by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI), a supporting sponsor of the conference, to a collaborative One Health vision that recognizes the health and well-being of people, animals and ecosystems are interdependent.

olsen“We, at the Global Health Institute, are thrilled that the EcoHealth call to action so closely embraces our One Health priorities for world health, and recognizes the impacts of climate change on the well-being of everyone and everything that inhabits our planet,” says Christopher Olsen, GHI acting director and associate director for One Health. “This statement is particularly valuable because hundreds of prominent members of the ecohealth community from around the world discussed and ratified it.”

“There are ways that people and organizations can realign human activity to secure a livable world and provide health and well-being for future generations. This is not an easy task, but it is feasible.”—EcoHealth 2014 Call to Action

The declaration’s call for a widely diversified approach to climate and health is on target, and it is a reminder that the world must move from research to action to address the impact of climate change, Olsen says. He hopes to see a wide variety of other organizations—dealing with topics from agriculture to health care to environment—endorse and distribute the EcoHealth declaration.

UW-Madison closely linked to EcoHealth

UW-Madison has been closely involved with the International Association for Ecology and Health since its inception. Dr. Jonathan Patz, GHI director who shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for his work with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, served as the founding president, and UW-Madison hosted the first EcoHealth Conference in 2006.

“The EcoHealth mission is similar to One Health, in that health depends on so many interlinked sectors,” Patz says. “An ecohealth approach, which is really a systems approach, is essential for any activities we pursue.”

During the conference, Dr. Tony Goldberg, GHI associate director for research and professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, presented how the One Health approach has resulted in a better understanding of human, animal and environmental health in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Heidi Busse, associate researcher in the School of Medicine and Public Health, also presented findings from a project to introduce orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to Ethiopian farmers.

Making connections for health, ecosystems and society

“People, our fellow creatures and our mutual planet need our urgent attention in the face of global environmental change,” the EcoHealth declaration says. “A focus on health—across humans, animals and other species—offers new opportunities to harness synergies across disparate efforts to address climate change.”

Like GHI, the EcoHealth declaration looks for practical steps and coordinated action to address climate change and improve health. The EcoHealth statement also echoes GHI’s pledge to

  • embrace diverse cultures and forms of knowledge,
  • foster community engagement,
  • focus on equity,
  • cultivate collaboration,
  • prioritize ecosystem sustainability, and
  • generate integrated research, planning and action.

GHI and UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute, Wisconsin Energy Institute and Office of Sustainability next bring international attention to the connection between climate and health as co-hosting organizations for “Action in Climate Change and Health,” an official side event to the September U.N. Climate Summit. The Public Health Institute, Global Climate and Health Alliance, and American College of Sports Medicine are also co-hosting organizations for the Sept. 22 event in New York City, a recognized side event with the U.N. Climate Summit.

This UW-Madison co-hosted event will recap the health risks of climate change and detail how addressing climate change presents health opportunities through active transportation, sustainable food systems and clean energy. Dr. Richard Horton from The Lancet opens the event, and Patz, a co-organizer, is among the panelists.

The Global Health Institute is dedicated to advancing health today while ensuring resources are available for health tomorrow. Solutions depend on collaboration between UW-Madison and local and world partners who can address the complex and interdependent root causes of disease. To learn more or to make a gift, visit

By Ann Grauvogl/ Aug. 25, 2014