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Conservation medicine is an emerging, interdisciplinary field that studies the relationship between human and animal health, and environmental conditions. Also known as ecological medicine, environmental medicine, or medical geology.
The environmental causes of health problems are complex, global, and poorly understood. Conservation medicine practitioners form multidisciplinary teams to tackle these issues. They can include physicians, veterinarians, researchers and clinicians in many disciplines including microbiologists, pathologists, landscape analysts, marine biologists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, climate biologists, anthropologists, economists, and political scientists.
The term conservation medicine was first used in the mid-1990s, and represents a significant paradigm shift in both medicine and environmentalism. While the hands-on process in individual cases is complicated, the underlying concept of interrelationships is quite intuitive, namely, that all things are related. The threat of zoonotic diseases—cross-species diseases that travel to humans from other animal species—is central. For example, burning huge areas of forest (to make way for farmland) is normally seen as an environmental (and economic) concern. That action may displace a wild animal species, which comes into contact with and infects a domesticated animal species, creating a veterinary problem. The domesticated animal then enters the human food chain and infects people, and a new health threat appears. Conventional approaches to environmental protection and animal and human health only as an exception examine these connections, whereas in conservation medicine, such relationships are fundamental. Professionals from the many disciplines involved, who usually operate in well-separated spheres, necessarily work closely together.
By looking at the environment and health as a continuum, conservation medicine has the potentional to rapidly change public perspectives on many high profile societal issues, making the distant and ill-defined, local and pressing. For instance, global warming may have vaguely defined long-term impacts, but when an immediate effect is a relatively slight rise in air temperature, which in turn raises the flight ceiling for temperature-sensitive mosquitoes, allowing them to infect higher flying birds, and so forth, the issue becomes more real. Likewise, the broad topic of suburban sprawl is made more relevant when seen in terms of the immediate imbalance it brings to rural ecosystems, which leads to population increases of, and forces humans into closer contact with, certain animal populations (like rodents), introducing the risk of hosts of new cross-species diseases. Seemingly common sense scenarios like these lie at the heart of conservation medicine. When tied to actual cases (like SARS or HIV/AIDS), this holistic outlook seems likely to resonate more powerfully with the public than the more abstract explanations of environmental and health issues that we are currently used to.
- Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice by A. Alonso Aguirre (Editor), Richard S. Ostfeld (Editor), Gary M. Tabor (Editor), Carol House, Mary C. Pearl. Oxford University Press (October 1, 2002) ISBN 0195150937 - Publisher's link to sample pages. Table of contents
- EcoHealth Journal: Conservation Medicine, Human Health, Ecosystem Sustainability
- Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) is a monthly journal of peer-reviewed research and news on the impact of the environment on human health. EHP content is free online
- Conservation Medicine: Combining the Best of All Worlds - August 2003 fulltext
- E-The Environmental Magazine, November/December 2004.
- Connecting the Dots: The Emerging Science of Conservation Medicine Links Human and Animal Health with the Environment by Jim Motavalli. Animal diseases are crossing over to humans at an alarming rate, and one of the major reasons is the wholesale destruction of the environment. We all know about West Nile virus and Lyme disease, but newly emerging killers spread by animals, birds and insects in compromised ecosystems include SARS, monkeypox and avian influenza. fulltext
- E WORD Conservation Health by Doug Moss fulltext
- Conservation Medicine Lecture topics from Tropical and Travel Medicine Web Site
- The Consortium for Conservation Medicine
- CCM partners include
- Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment http://www.med.harvard.edu/chge/
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health - Department of Environmental Health Sciences http://www.jhsph.edu/Dept/EHS/index.html
- USGS National Wildlife Health Center http://www.emtc.usgs.gov/nwhchome.html
- Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine http://www.tufts.edu/vet/ccm/index.html
- Wildlife Trust http://www.wildlifetrust.org/
- CCM partners include
- Conservation Medicine Center of Chicago (CMCC) is a collaboration among the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo; Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine; and the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Murdoch University, Perth, Australia, School of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences offers a Master of Veterinary Studies in Conservation Medicine as well as a Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Conservation Medicine
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