SNAPP TEAM:Ecological Levers for Health
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Can conservation interventions associated with improved human health be applied to human and environmental problems to create new ecologically-based solutions?

“Ecological levers of health” are conservation interventions that have direct, measurable benefits to human health. For example, in West Africa, restoring natural river flow allowed native species to return to the river, which in turn preyed upon animal vectors of schistosomiasis: a debilitating infectious human disease. River flow restoration proved more effective for controlling the spread of the disease than medical interventions alone. This group is searching for more examples of ecological levers for health to alleviate burdens of the world’s most important infectious human diseases while safeguarding or restoring ecosystem integrity and function.


OUR APPROACH: This working group is identifying clear links between infectious disease transmission, environmental change, and actionable solutions at local and regional levels. By synthesizing existing win-win solutions that can benefit people and nature, this team is contributing to Planetary Health research, investment, and evaluation agendas for the 21st century.

Team Status: ONGOING
Team Critical Challenge: Social Innovations
  • Analyze existing data and models on human-disease-environment systems to identify existing evidence and opportunities to intervene through “ecological levers for health” at local or regional levels
  • Contextualize concrete examples and synthesize how they can advance a “planetary health” agenda for the 21st century
  • Develop metrics and modules to quantify and monitor the feedbacks between health, development, and conservation efforts
Key Products
Fighting poverty with synthesis science

This article from the National Center of Ecological Analysis and Synthesis describes how ecological levers for health can help to alleviate poverty

Links between public health and food production

This synthesis of over 70 years of data revealed trends in human infectious disease and described the policy actions necessary to balance public health and agriculture.

A different perspective on preventing pathogen spread from animals to people

Preventing infectious diseases from “spilling over” from animal hosts to people involves disease research and human and animal health professionals to work together. This paper discusses the advantages of adding holistic ecological approaches to protecting public health, as well as domestic animals and wildlife.

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Kevin Lafferty
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Susanne Sokolow
Stanford University
Matt Bonds
Harvard University
Giulio De Leo
Stanford University
Andy Dobson
Princeton University
Andres Garchitorena
Harvard University
Skylar Hopkins
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), University of California, Santa Barbara
Isabel Jones
Stanford University
Armand Kuris
University of California, Santa Barbara
Sandra Laney
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
David Lopez-Carr
University of California, Santa Barbara
Andy MacDonald
Stanford University
Lisa Mandle
Stanford University
Erin Mordecai
Stanford University
Sarah Olson
Wildlife Conservation Society
John Openshaw
Stanford University
Alison Peel
Griffith University
Raina Plowright
Montana State University
Justin Remais
University of California, Berkeley
Taylor Ricketts
University of Vermont
Gary Tabor
Center for Large Landscape Conservation
Heather Tallis
The Nature Conservancy
Chelsea Wood
University of Washington
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