Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Quantifying Earth's worth to public health

Date:
November 19, 2013
Source:
Wildlife Conservation Society
Summary:
A new paper delineates a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth’s natural systems.

On the island of Madagascar, a team of researchers from University of California, Berkeley, Harvard School of Public Health, and the Wildlife Conservation Society has found that the loss of access to wildlife for sustenance can lead to nutritional deficiencies in children. The researchers are shown here taking blood samples from a child enrolled in the study to measure levels of hemoglobin.
Credit: Christopher Golden

A new paper from members of the HEAL (Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages) consortium delineates a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth's natural systems.

Looking comprehensively at available research to date, the paper's authors highlight repeated correlations between changes in natural systems and existing and potential human health outcomes, including:

  • Forest fires used to clear land in Indonesia generate airborne particulates that are linked to cardiopulmonary disease in downwind population centers like Singapore.
  • Risk of human exposure to Chagas disease in Panama and the Brazilian Amazon, and to Lyme disease in the United States, is positively correlated with reduced mammalian diversity.
  • When households in rural Madagascar are unable to harvest wild meat for consumption, their children can experience a 30% higher risk of iron deficiency anemia -- a condition that increases the risk for sickness and death from infectious disease, and reduces IQ and the lifelong capacity for physical activity.
  • In Belize, nutrient enrichment from agricultural runoff hundreds of miles upstream causes a change in the vegetation pattern of lowland wetlands that favors more efficient malaria vectors, leading to increased malaria exposure among coastal populations.
  • Human health impacts of anthropogenic climate change include exposure to heat stress, air pollution, infectious disease, respiratory allergens, and natural hazards as well as increased water scarcity, food insecurity and population displacement.

"Human activity is affecting nearly all of Earth's natural systems -- altering the planet's land cover, rivers and oceans, climate, and the full range of complex ecological relationships and biogeochemical cycles that have long sustained life on Earth," said Dr. Samuel Myers of the Harvard School of Public Health and the study's lead author. "Defining a new epoch, the Anthropocene, these changes and their effects put in question the ability of the planet to provide for a human population now exceeding 7 billion with an exponentially growing demand for goods and services."

In their paper, the authors demonstrate the far reaching effects of this little explored and increasingly critical focus on ecological change and public health by illustrating what is known, identifying gaps for and limitations of future research efforts, addressing the scale of the global burden of disease associated with changes to natural systems, and proposing a research framework that strengthens the scientific underpinnings of both public health and environmental conservation. Such efforts should lead to a more robust understanding of the human health impacts of accelerating environmental change and inform decision-making in the land-use planning, conservation, and public health policy realms. They also point out the equity and inter-generational justice issues related to this field, as most of the burdens associated with increased degradation of natural systems will be experienced by the poor and by future generations.

Dr. Steven Osofsky, who oversees the HEAL consortium and leads the Wildlife Conservation Society's Health programs around the world said, "Not all governments prioritize environmental stewardship, and many lack adequate resources to support public health. If we can combine forces and utilize sound science to build inter-sectoral bridges where conservation and public health interests are demonstrated to coincide, it's a win-win. On the other hand, if we don't work together to understand the global burden of disease that's associated with alterations in the structure and function of natural systems, we may find ourselves testing planetary boundaries in ways that are frightening and difficult to reverse."

The paper, titled "Human Health Impacts of Ecosystem Alteration," appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Early Edition.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. S. Myers, L. Gaffikin, C. D. Golden, R. S. Ostfeld, K. H. Redford, T. H. Ricketts, W. R. Turner, S. A. Osofsky. Human health impacts of ecosystem alteration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; 110 (47): 18753 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1218656110

Cite This Page:

Wildlife Conservation Society. "Quantifying Earth's worth to public health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119141953.htm>.
Wildlife Conservation Society. (2013, November 19). Quantifying Earth's worth to public health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119141953.htm
Wildlife Conservation Society. "Quantifying Earth's worth to public health." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119141953.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Aimed at reducing sexual assaults on college campuses, California has adopted a new law changing the standard of consent for sexual activity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Researchers looked at 1,500 blood samples and determined people who developed pancreatic cancer had more branched chain amino acids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins