An extensive review of academic papers and reports evaluated 46 proposed win-win solutions for reducing the burden of human infectious diseases and advancing conservation goals, which can now be explored in a publicly available website. The study highlights various and widespread bright spots where there may be opportunities to simultaneously protect human and ecosystem health.
Nearly 30 researchers from across the United States and overseas conducted this surveywhich appears in Lancet Planetary Health. The interdisciplinary team included academic researchers, practitioners in government and nonprofit organizations, and veterinarians.
Skylar Hopkins, an assistant professor of applied ecology at NC State and corresponding author of the study, said the interdisciplinary group worked on this synthesis for four years. They carefully searched the existing academic literature for potential solutions and then developed a new process for determining whether a specific win-win solution is safe, feasible, and cost-effective. They found that the solutions have different levels of evidence for success; some have strong support already and others are ripe for further study.
“We like to think of these solutions as options on a custom menu. To choose and design a solution that meets your needs, you will need a lot of information. So we provide a summary of the evidence for each solution,” Hopkins said. “We also created a decision process that anyone can follow, so researchers and decision makers can design their own solutions or evaluate whether an existing solution will work. in their situation.”
But Hopkins said it wasn’t easy to evaluate some of the possible solutions.
“Sometimes the evidence for a possible solution is conflicting,” Hopkins said. “One study would suggest that an intervention would reduce the burden of human disease, and another study would suggest that the same intervention would increase the burden of human disease. Potential solutions may also have trade-offs or collateral impacts, where the intervention was good for some people but not for others. The team had to develop a method for quantifying the diversity, consistency and applicability of evidence to deal with these complications.
The list of 46 solutions shows only one with “high” evidence for both human health and conservation implications: vaccinating dogs to reduce transmission of rabies to wildlife and humans. Some of the solutions focus on domestic cats and dogs as disease reservoirs.
“Some of the 46 proposed solutions are 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 to walk on a leash instead of roaming unsupervised, you are implementing one of these solutions,” Hopkins said.
The working group was funded by the Science for Nature and People Partnership after several members of the team had spent years studying human schistosomiasis in Africa – a debilitating disease caused by contact with water contaminated with snail parasites. The snail population exploded when a river was blocked and the grasshoppers, which eat the snails, could not migrate. Possible solution? Put the shrimp back into the river.
The team tried to find other examples of possible profitable solutions, unsure if they would find many or few other examples. They found that the 46 possible solutions covered six of the world’s seven continents – all but Antarctica – and included many of the world’s major known pathogens and methods of disease transmission. The solutions also address many 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 focus on conservation efforts that also had benefits for human health; many involve managing species, such as the snail parasites that contaminated the village’s water sources.
Six of the solutions involved public health interventions that also had conservation benefits.
“People often ask what my favorite solution is,” Hopkins said, “and it’s hard to choose! But I’m forever impressed by programs that aim to improve access to health care, education, and life opportunities for people living near protected forests, marine reserves or other biodiversity hotspots. When those communities have more power over their own well-being, they can use resources more sustainably, which slows the rate of deforestation and marine degradation.”
Thirteen of the solutions are not specific to human health or conservation, but they affect both sectors. Replacing wood stoves with cleaner stoves is proposed to reduce deforestation and smoke-related diseases, researchers say.
“Policymakers are looking for opportunities to simultaneously advance multiple sustainable development goals, such as ‘ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all’ and ‘conserving life on land and under water.’ This is important work, but it can seem abstract or intangible. We hope this study brings these efforts to life with real-world examples,” Hopkins said.
Note to editors: A summary of the paper follows.
“Diversity and evidence gaps among potential win-win solutions for the containment and control of human infectious diseases”
authors: Skylar R. Hopkins, Kevin D. Lafferty, Chelsea L. Wood, Sarah H. Olson, Julia C. Buck, Giulio A. de Leo, Kathryn J. Fiorella, Johanna L. Fornberg, Andres Garchitorena, Isabel J. Jones, Armand M. Kuris, Laura H. Kwong, Christopher LeBoa, Ariel E. Leon, Andrea J. Lund, Andrew J. MacDonald, Daniel CG Metz, Nicole Nova, Alison J. Peel, Justin V. Remais, Tara E. Stewart Merrill , Maya Wilson, Matthew H. Bonds, Andrew P. Dobson, David Lopez Carr, Meghan E. Howard, Lisa Mandle, Susanne H. Sokolow
Published: August 3, 2022 at Lancet Planetary Health
abstract: As sustainable development practitioners have worked to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all” and “preserve life on land and under water,” what progress has been made with winning interventions that reduce the burden of human infectious diseases advancing goalkeeping? Using a systematic literature review, we identified 46 such proposed solutions, which we then investigated individually using targeted literature reviews. The proposed solutions addressed different conservation threats and human infectious diseases, and thus the proposed interventions varied in scale, cost and impact. Some potential solutions had moderate to high quality evidence of previous success in achieving their proposed impacts in one or both sectors. However, there were obvious evidence gaps within and between solutions, highlighting opportunities for further research and adaptive implementation. Stakeholders looking for profitable interventions can explore this review and a searchable database to find and adapt a relevant solution or to devise entirely new solutions.