At Vets without Borders, we think everything is part of an ecosystem. A city pet is part of an ecosystem which includes other animals, its owners, its vet, neighbours, and the urban environment. The bacteria Salmonella is part of an ecosystem that includes the food people eat, the animals they produce, and the economic system that regulates trade in food.
In many developing countries, populations are growing, rural areas are becoming industrialized and poor people need alternative livelihoods to support their families. As environments change, factors which influence people and animals’ health change too, and understanding people and their animals in the context of their ecosystems is ever more important.
It is for this reason that Vets without Borders is part of a ground-breaking new initiative to build the field of Ecosystem approaches to health (or Ecohealth) in Southeast Asia. Veterinarians have a unique insight into the relationship between human, animal and environmental health and we are on a journey with our partners, members and supporters to help build a better world using these skills and understanding.
On 29-31 March, Vets without Borders convened the first major event of the Field Building Leadership Initiative for Ecohealth in Southeast Asia. With more than 20 people from Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico and others, it set the path for a new form of training and education in Southeast Asian countries. This new training will focus on building collaboration between researchers and communities, understanding how equity and sustainability are core business for universities, and exploring the complex links between disease, agriculture, health and urbanization.
The cornerstone of the new training approach is an Ecohealth Trainer manual, written collaboratively by more than ten international authors, which will provide a template for teachers and students in developing courses in Ecohealth. Funded primarily by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the initiative is being spearheaded by regional champions who will build research and teaching of Ecohealth at their institutions. At the March event, attendees said that everyone showed “commitment and participation” and “real progress was made with the manual thanks to so much quality collective work”. We are lucky to be working with such motivated and visionary leaders around the world.