Research in Action Strengthening the field of ecohealth research in Latin America and the Caribbean

April 28, 2016

Vector-borne diseases are a significant public health concern in Latin America and the Caribbean and are responsible for one million years of potential life loss due to premature death or disability. Building on over a decade of ecohealth research support, IDRC is working with research organizations and networks in the region to improve the effectiveness of vector-control interventions and policies.

The Field-Building Leadership in Prevention and Control of Vector-borne Diseases – Latin America and Caribbean project operates out of four 'ecohealth nodes' located in Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, and Yucatán, Mexico. The nodes are centres of regional research and capacity building. They support the dissemination of ecohealth research findings, the scaling up of ecohealth interventions, and the conduct of studies on their cost-effectiveness. 

Supporting a new generation of ecohealth practitioners

Since the project was launched in 2011, more than 300 professionals and community leaders have been trained in the ecohealth approach. Ecohealth perspectives have also been integrated into university curricula:

  • Ecohealth training agreements have been signed with 14 Colombian universities and with the national workers training agency
  • 25 Colombian universities are working to incorporate the ecohealth approach into graduate and post-graduate courses in nursing, medicine, environmental sciences, epidemiology, and public health
  • The Central University of Venezuela, the University of San Carlos of Guatemala, and the University of El Salvador have incorporated the ecohealth approach into several graduate courses
  • The ecohealth approach has been integrated into the Master's and PhD of Public Health programs offered at the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico
  • The University of Carabobo in Venezuela is currently developing a diploma course in ecohealth

Incorporating the ecohealth approach into national health research and policy

In Venezuela, the national science funding agency has funded nine research teams to use the ecohealth approach to study malaria, dengue, Chagas, yellow fever, onchocerciasis, andleishmaniasis. Twelve vector control programs run by the Ministries of Health in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Peru have been incorporating the ecohealth approach in their activities. In Colombia, the ecohealth approach is a key component of the national disease prevention program. 

Looking_for_Chagas_vector.jpgIncreasing public awareness about ecohealth achievements

The four Latin America project nodes continue to carry out research on new and effective ecohealth interventions and to expand their network of members and collaborating partners. The project team is working to raise public awareness about their work through bulletins, improved links with governmental media officers, and a growing online presence. 

 

Photo (right): Ecosalud ETV Colombia
Researchers and vector staff working with indigenous communities in the municipality of Cubara, Colombia, look for vectors of Chagas disease in a rural house.