(ALL INTERNAL and LIMITED EXTERNAL USES) Dan Kusnierz, the Water Resources Program Manager for the Penobscot Nation, collects water samples on the Penobscot River near Indian Island, Maine. The Nature Conservancy in partnership with an unprecedented array of partners, including the Penobscot Indian Nation, have come together to accomplish the goal of restoring the Penobscot River. PHOTO CREDIT: © Bridget Besaw

Working Group:
Ecological Levers for Health

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the “Planetary Health” movement consider the links between human health and the environment. To design interventions that promote healthy outcomes for both people and nature requires understanding the links between disease transmission and environmental change.

More Info

Working Group Summary

Identifying Ecological Levers

The Ecological Levers for Health Working Group will identify local or regional actionable, ecological levers – types of interventions – that can have direct, measurable benefits for health and the environment for the communities that institute them. The working group will seek to identify clear links between disease transmission and environmental degradation by building on recent work in West Africa that showed ecological levers – like restoration of certain species – were more effective for controlling the spread of human schistosomiasis than direct health interventions alone.

The Challenge

Making the Connections Between Environmental Change and Disease

The connections between environmental change and disease transmission are not always obvious. And while individual interventions – like restoring species — may be effective in restoring environmental and human health, an outstanding question remains: Are these ecological levers for health isolated case studies or could they be models for many creative win-win interventions yet to be devised?

To find these solutions, the Ecological Levers for Health Working Group will involve stakeholders from nature conservation, medicine, and social justice as well as scientists with expertise in infectious disease/parasitology, economics, ecological modeling, policy, human geography, engineering and computer science.

Inquiry Activities & Updates

Ecological Levers for Direct, Measurable Benefits

The Ecological Levers for Health Working Group:

  • analyzes existing data on additional disease environment systems for which evidence exists and opportunities are present to intervene through “ecological levers for health” at a local or regional level;
  • contextualizes concrete examples and synthesizes how they can advance a “Planetary Health” agenda for the 21st century; and
  • develops metrics and modules to quantify and monitor the feedbacks between health, development and conservation efforts. For example, a health intervention might currently measure impact through “number of lives (or disease burden) saved,” an economic development project through “number of dollars raised for a community,” and a conservation program through “ecosystem services protected.”

The Team

Ecological Levers for Health Working Group