Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice

By A. Alonso Aguirre; Richard S. Ostfeld et al. | Go to book overview

23
Linking Human and Ecosystem
Health on the Amazon Frontier
Tamsyn P. Murray
James J. Kay
David Waltner-Toews
Ernesto F. Ra´ez-Luna

Our ability to enhance the health of ecosystems is predicated on an understanding of the interactions among ecosystem dynamics, natural resource use, and human health. Since 1996, a team of Canadian and Peruvian researchers has been developing an adaptive ecosystem approach to human health. In keeping with the standard definition of methodology used in the systems literature (Checkland and Scholes 1990), the ecosystem approach provides an interdisciplinary, holistic guide to how to investigate complex socioecological problems, drawing on and bringing together a wide variety of methods, actors, and scales of investigation. In the case study explored in this chapter, we have been particularly interested in the relationships between the structure and function of stressed ecosystems and land use strategies, natural resource use and nutritional status, and anthropogenic environmental changes and the transmission of disease. The intent of our work is to improve human health of local people through better management of their natural resources. Drawing on World Health Organization (WHO) documents and reviews of the health literature in relation to people, animals, plants, and ecosystems, we derived a working definition of health as being the capacity to achieve socially determined goals (mental, physical, and social well-being, vigor, resilience, productivity, flourishing) within a set of socioecological constraints, only one of which is disease (Sundsvall 1991; Waltner-Toews and Wall 1997; WHO 1978). This chapter describes the evolution of the ecosystem approach as it was applied in the frontier regions of the Peruvian Amazon.

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