Applying lessons from the ecohealth approach to make food systems healthier
For the past 20 years, Southern and Northern research teams have promoted the field of ecohealth, an emerging field that studies how changes in the earth’s ecosystems affect human health. These researchers have accumulated significant experience in developing interdisciplinary and participatory research and practice to address the interdependencies between health, environment, and social development.
In August 2018, the biennial Ecohealth Congress of the International Association for Ecology and Health will take place in Colombia, hosted by the Universidad del Valle. Its overall theme is “Environmental and health equity: Connecting local alternatives in a global world”, which includes “Healthy food and clean water for all” as one of its four themes. Though multiple projects have worked at the interface between ecosystems, agriculture, and health, this project will address a relevant gap in ecohealth research. A team convened by the University del Valle will assess how ecohealth principles can be extrapolated to the field of food systems research for the prevention of non-communicable diseases. Public health, nutrition, and multidisciplinary systems approaches are necessary to guide evidence-based, intersectoral policies that address the notable increase in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular diseases in developing countries.
The project will provide support to sponsor the participation of young leaders and local change actors from low and middle-income countries at the Congress, as well as senior scientists from the ecohealth and food systems disciplines. It will support a set of background studies from past and current projects aiming to assess the usefulness of ecohealth principles to inform research and practice on food systems, establish and facilitate a working dialogue between both communities, and organize a pre-congress workshop on “An ecohealth perspective to food systems research”. The project is expected to set the bar for future cooperative relationships that will engage ecohealth and food systems practitioners and promote research that addresses the social and environmental determinants of healthy diets in low and middle-income countries.