A ‘win-win’ study: Here are 46 possible ways to reduce disease and boost conservation

Raleigh – A far-reaching review of academic papers and reports evaluated 46 proposed “win-win” solutions to reduce human infectious disease burdens and advance conservation goals, which can now be explored on a publicly available website. The study highlights a wide variety of bright spots where there can be opportunities to protect human health and the ecosystem at the same time.

Nearly 30 researchers from across the United States and abroad conducted the study, which appeared in The Lancet Planetary Health. Lancet Health Planet. The multidisciplinary team included academic researchers, practitioners in governmental and non-profit organizations, and veterinarians.

Skyler Hopkins, associate professor of applied ecology at NC State and corresponding author of the study, said the multidisciplinary group worked on this synthesis for four years. They painstakingly searched the current academic literature for potential solutions and then developed a new process to determine if a given “win” solution is safe, feasible, and cost-effective. They find that the solutions have different levels of evidence of success; Some have really strong support and others are ready for further study.

“We like to think of these solutions like options in a custom menu. To select and design a solution that meets your needs, you will need a lot of information. So we provide a summary of evidence for each solution,” Hopkins said. “We’ve also created a decision-making process that anyone can follow, so that researchers and decision-makers can design their own solutions or assess whether an existing solution will work in their situation.”

But Hopkins said it is not easy to assess some potential solutions.

“Sometimes the evidence for a potential solution is conflicting,” Hopkins said. “One study might suggest that an intervention would reduce human disease burdens and another study would suggest that the same intervention would increase human disease burdens. Potential solutions could also have trade-offs or side effects, as the intervention was beneficial for some people but not others. “. The team had to develop a method to measure the diversity, consistency, and applicability of the evidence to deal with these complications.

The list of 46 solutions shows only one solution that has “high” evidence for both positive effects on human health and conservation: vaccinate dogs to reduce transmission of rabies to wildlife and humans. Many solutions focus on domestic cats and dogs as reservoirs of disease.

“Some of the 46 proposed solutions are being implemented on a large scale by national or international governments. Others can be done on a small scale, even by individuals. Every time you vaccinate your pets or raise your kitten for walks,” Hopkins said. On a leash instead of roaming unsupervised, you’re implementing one of these solutions.”

The working group was funded by the Science for Nature and People Partnership after some of the team members spent years studying human schistosomiasis in Africa — a debilitating disease caused by contact with water contaminated with parasites of snails. The snail population exploded when a river was blocked, and the snail-eating prawns were unable to migrate. What is the possible solution? Enter the shrimp back into the river.

The team set out to find other examples of potential win-win solutions, unsure whether they would find many or few other examples. They found that the 46 potential solutions cover six of the world’s seven continents – all but Antarctica – and include many of the world’s known pathogens and their transmission routes. The solutions also address most of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including land use change due to agriculture, urbanization, resource exploitation and invasive species.

Twenty-seven of the solutions focused on conservation efforts that also had human health benefits; Many involve managing species, such as the snail parasites that pollute village water sources.

Six of the solutions include public health interventions that also had conservation benefits.

“People often ask what is my preferred solution, and it is hard to choose!” Hopkins said, “But I have been a forever admirer of programs that aim to improve access to health care, education, and livelihood opportunities for people who live near protected forests, marine reserves, or other hotspots. biodiversity. When these communities have more power over their well-being, they can use resources more sustainably, slowing rates of deforestation and marine degradation.”

Thirteen of the solutions are not specific to human health or conservation but touch both sectors. Researchers say it is proposed to replace wood-burning stoves with cleaner stoves to reduce deforestation and smoke-related diseases.

“Policy makers are looking for opportunities to simultaneously advance multiple sustainable development goals, such as ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all’ and ‘preserve life on land and under water.’ This is important work, but one that can feel abstract or intangible,” he said. Hopkins: “We hope this study will bring these efforts to life with real-world examples.”

(c) NCSU

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