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1.  A decadal view of biodiversity informatics: challenges and priorities 
BMC Ecology  2013;13:16.
Biodiversity informatics plays a central enabling role in the research community's efforts to address scientific conservation and sustainability issues. Great strides have been made in the past decade establishing a framework for sharing data, where taxonomy and systematics has been perceived as the most prominent discipline involved. To some extent this is inevitable, given the use of species names as the pivot around which information is organised. To address the urgent questions around conservation, land-use, environmental change, sustainability, food security and ecosystem services that are facing Governments worldwide, we need to understand how the ecosystem works. So, we need a systems approach to understanding biodiversity that moves significantly beyond taxonomy and species observations. Such an approach needs to look at the whole system to address species interactions, both with their environment and with other species.
It is clear that some barriers to progress are sociological, basically persuading people to use the technological solutions that are already available. This is best addressed by developing more effective systems that deliver immediate benefit to the user, hiding the majority of the technology behind simple user interfaces. An infrastructure should be a space in which activities take place and, as such, should be effectively invisible.
This community consultation paper positions the role of biodiversity informatics, for the next decade, presenting the actions needed to link the various biodiversity infrastructures invisibly and to facilitate understanding that can support both business and policy-makers. The community considers the goal in biodiversity informatics to be full integration of the biodiversity research community, including citizens’ science, through a commonly-shared, sustainable e-infrastructure across all sub-disciplines that reliably serves science and society alike.
PMCID: PMC3843378  PMID: 23587026
Biodiversity; Informatics; Grand challenge; Decadal vision; Research infrastructure; e-Infrastructure; Data sharing; Systems approaches
2.  We’re only in it for the knowledge? A problem solving turn in environment and health expert elicitation 
Environmental Health  2012;11(Suppl 1):S3.
The FP6 EU HENVINET project aimed at synthesizing the scientific information available on a number of topics of high relevance to policy makers in environment and health. The goal of the current paper is to reflect on the methodology that was used in the project, in view of exploring the usefulness of this and similar methodologies to the policy process. The topics investigated included health impacts of the brominated flame retardants decabrominated diphenylether (decaBDE) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), phthalates highlighting di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), the pesticide chlorpyrifos (CPF), nanoparticles, the impacts of climate change on asthma and other respiratory disorders, and the influence of environment health stressors on cancer induction.
Initially the focus was on identifying knowledge gaps in the state of the art in scientific knowledge. Literature reviews covered all elements that compose the causal chain of the different environmental health issues from emissions to exposures, to effects and to health impacts. Through expert elicitation, knowledge gaps were highlighted by assessing expert confidence using calibrated confidence scales. During this work a complementary focus to that on knowledge gaps was developed through interdisciplinary reflections. By extending the scope of the endeavour from only a scientific perspective, to also include the more problem solving oriented policy perspective, the question of which kind of policy action experts consider justifiable was addressed. This was addressed by means of a questionnaire. In an expert workshop the results of both questionnaires were discussed as a basis for policy briefs.
The expert elicitation, the application of the calibrated confidence levels and the problem solving approach were all experienced as being quite challenging for the experts involved, as these approaches did not easily relate to mainstream environment and health scientific practices. Even so, most experts were quite positive about it. In particular, the opportunity to widen one’s own horizon and to interactively exchange knowledge and debate with a diversity of experts seemed to be well appreciated in this approach. Different parts of the approach also helped in focussing on specific relevant aspects of scientific knowledge, and as such can be considered of reflective value.
The approach developed by HENVINET was part of a practice of learning by doing and of interdisciplinary cooperation and negotiation. Ambitions were challenged by unforeseen complexities and difference of opinion and as no Holy Grail approach was at hand to copy or follow, it was quite an interesting but also complicated endeavour. Perfection, if this could be defined, seemed out of reach all the time. Nevertheless, many involved were quite positive about it. It seems that many felt that it fitted some important needs in current science when addressing the needs of policy making on such important issues, without anyone really having a clue on how to actually do this. Challenging questions remain on the quality of such approach and its product. Practice tells us that there probably is no best method and that the best we can do is dependent on contextual negotiation and learning from experiences that we think are relevant.
PMCID: PMC3388440  PMID: 22759503
3.  Framing health and foreign policy: lessons for global health diplomacy 
Global health financing has increased dramatically in recent years, indicative of a rise in health as a foreign policy issue. Several governments have issued specific foreign policy statements on global health and a new term, global health diplomacy, has been coined to describe the processes by which state and non-state actors engage to position health issues more prominently in foreign policy decision-making. Their ability to do so is important to advancing international cooperation in health. In this paper we review the arguments for health in foreign policy that inform global health diplomacy. These are organized into six policy frames: security, development, global public goods, trade, human rights and ethical/moral reasoning. Each of these frames has implications for how global health as a foreign policy issue is conceptualized. Differing arguments within and between these policy frames, while overlapping, can also be contradictory. This raises an important question about which arguments prevail in actual state decision-making. This question is addressed through an analysis of policy or policy-related documents and academic literature pertinent to each policy framing with some assessment of policy practice. The reference point for this analysis is the explicit goal of improving global health equity. This goal has increasing national traction within national public health discourse and decision-making and, through the Millennium Development Goals and other multilateral reports and declarations, is entering global health policy discussion. Initial findings support conventional international relations theory that most states, even when committed to health as a foreign policy goal, still make decisions primarily on the basis of the 'high politics' of national security and economic material interests. Development, human rights and ethical/moral arguments for global health assistance, the traditional 'low politics' of foreign policy, are present in discourse but do not appear to dominate practice. While political momentum for health as a foreign policy goal persists, the framing of this goal remains a contested issue. The analysis offered in this article may prove helpful to those engaged in global health diplomacy or in efforts to have global governance across a range of sectoral interests pay more attention to health equity impacts.
PMCID: PMC2936293  PMID: 20727211
4.  Assessing biodiversity loss due to land use with Life Cycle Assessment: are we there yet? 
Global Change Biology  2014;21(1):32-47.
Ecosystems are under increasing pressure from human activities, with land use and land-use change at the forefront of the drivers that provoke global and regional biodiversity loss. The first step in addressing the challenge of how to reverse the negative outlook for the coming years starts with measuring environmental loss rates and assigning responsibilities. Pinpointing the global pressures on biodiversity is a task best addressed using holistic models such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is the leading method for calculating cradle-to-grave environmental impacts of products and services; it is actively promoted by many public policies, and integrated as part of environmental information systems within private companies. LCA already deals with the potential biodiversity impacts of land use, but there are significant obstacles to overcome before its models grasp the full reach of the phenomena involved. In this review, we discuss some pressing issues that need to be addressed. LCA mainly introduces biodiversity as an endpoint category modeled as a loss in species richness due to the conversion and use of land over time and space. The functional and population effects on biodiversity are mostly absent due to the emphasis on species accumulation with limited geographic and taxonomical reach. Current land-use modeling activities that use biodiversity indicators tend to oversimplify the real dynamics and complexity of the interactions of species among each other and with their habitats. To identify the main areas for improvement, we systematically reviewed LCA studies on land use that had findings related to global change and conservation ecology. We provide suggestion as to how to address some of the issues raised. Our overall objective was to encourage companies to monitor and take concrete steps to address the impacts of land use on biodiversity on a broader geographical scale and along increasingly globalized supply chains.
PMCID: PMC4312853  PMID: 25143302
biodiversity indicators; ecological models; global change; land use; life cycle analysis; life cycle impact assessment
5.  Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Policy Élites: An Analysis of Tobacco Industry Documents 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(8):e1001076.
Gary Fooks and colleagues undertook a review of tobacco industry documents and show that policies on corporate social responsibility can enable access to and dialogue with policymakers at the highest level.
Recent attempts by large tobacco companies to represent themselves as socially responsible have been widely dismissed as image management. Existing research supports such claims by pointing to the failings and misleading nature of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. However, few studies have focused in depth on what tobacco companies hoped to achieve through CSR or reflected on the extent to which these ambitions have been realised.
Methods and Findings
Iterative searching relating to CSR strategies was undertaken of internal British American Tobacco (BAT) documents, released through litigation in the US. Relevant documents (764) were indexed and qualitatively analysed. In the past decade, BAT has actively developed a wide-ranging CSR programme. Company documents indicate that one of the key aims of this programme was to help the company secure access to policymakers and, thereby, increase the company's chances of influencing policy decisions. Taking the UK as a case study, this paper demonstrates the way in which CSR can be used to renew and maintain dialogue with policymakers, even in ostensibly unreceptive political contexts. In practice, the impact of this political use of CSR is likely to be context specific; depending on factors such as policy élites' understanding of the credibility of companies as a reliable source of information.
The findings suggest that tobacco company CSR strategies can enable access to and dialogue with policymakers and provide opportunities for issue definition. CSR should therefore be seen as a form of corporate political activity. This underlines the need for broad implementation of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Measures are needed to ensure transparency of interactions between all parts of government and the tobacco industry and for policy makers to be made more aware of what companies hope to achieve through CSR.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In the past, companies and multinational corporations were judged on the profits they made. Nowadays, though, much is made of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is the commitment by business to behave ethically and to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce, their families, the local community, and society at large. Put simply, companies and corporations now endeavor to show that they have a positive impact on the environment, consumers, employees, and society in addition to making money for their shareholders. Large tobacco companies are no exception. British American Tobacco (BAT, the world's second largest publicly traded tobacco company), for example, began working on a wide-ranging CSR program more than a decade ago. Given that tobacco is responsible for an estimated 5.4 million deaths worldwide annually, this program was initially met with hostility and dismissed as an image management exercise. However, large parts of the investment and CSR communities now approve of BAT's CSR program, which has won numerous awards.
Why Was This Study Done?
But what do BAT and other tobacco companies actually hope to achieve through their CSR initiatives and how successful have they been in achieving these aims? Few studies have addressed these important questions. In particular, there has been little research into the extent to which tobacco companies use CSR initiatives as a form of corporate political activity that can help them gain “access” to policymakers and define the legitimate concerns and optimal alternatives of public policy (“issue definition”). Access is defined as taking place when policymakers consider the views of policy advocates such as tobacco company employees and is a crucial component of issue definition, which refers to the strategies adopted by bodies such as multinational corporations to influence the policy agenda by defining what issues public policy should concern itself with and how it should approach them. In this case study, the researchers explore whether BAT's CSR program works as a form of corporate political activity by systematically examining internal BAT documents made publicly available as a result of US litigation. Specifically, the researchers examine BAT's efforts through its CSR program to reestablish access with the UK Department of Health following the department's decision in the late 1990s to restrict contact with major tobacco companies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using iterative searching, the researchers identified 764 documents in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a large collection of internal tobacco company documents released as a result of US litigation cases) that contain information relevant to BAT's CSR strategies. Their analysis of these documents indicates that one of the key aims of the CSR program actively developed over the past decade by BAT was to help secure access to policymakers and shows how BAT used CSR to renew and maintain dialogue with policymakers at a time when contact between government and tobacco companies was extremely restricted. The documents also show that BAT employees used CSR initiatives as a means of issue definition to both optimize the probability of subsequent discussions taking place and to frame their content. Finally, the documents illustrate how BAT used its CSR program to expand the number of access points across government, thereby providing BAT with more opportunities to meet and talk to officials.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that CSR is a form of corporate political activity that potentially has important implications for public health given the documented impact of the political activity of tobacco companies in delaying and blocking health-related tobacco control policies. In practice, the impact of the political use of CSR is likely to be context specific and will depend on factors such as whether senior policymakers regard companies as reliable sources of information. Importantly, these findings underline the need for broad implementation of Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty that calls for the introduction of multiple measures to reduce tobacco consumption, including tobacco advertizing bans and relevant taxation policies. Article 5.3 aims to protect public-health policies on tobacco control from tobacco industry influence. The findings of this study indicate that implementation of Article 5.3 will require measures that ensure transparency in interactions between all parts of government and the tobacco industry and will need an increased awareness across government of what tobacco companies hope to achieve through CSR.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The Corporate Responsibility (CORE) coalition, an alliance of voluntary organizations, trade unions, and companies, maintains a Web site that contains useful material on corporate social responsibility
The European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) promotes corporate accountability by bringing together national platforms of civil society organizations (including NGOs, trade unions, consumer advocacy groups, and academic institutions) from all over Europe
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages), details of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (in several languages), and guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3 of the FCTC
The Framework Convention Alliance provides more information about the FCTC
For information about tobacco industry influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
PMCID: PMC3160341  PMID: 21886485
6.  Diet and Physical Activity for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Policy Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001465.
Carl Lachat and colleagues evaluate policies in low- and middle-income countries addressing salt and fat consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, and physical activity, key risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are increasing rapidly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and constitute a leading cause of mortality. Although a call for global action has been resonating for years, the progress in national policy development in LMICs has not been assessed. This review of strategies to prevent NCDs in LMICs provides a benchmark against which policy response can be tracked over time.
Methods and Findings
We reviewed how government policies in LMICs outline actions that address salt consumption, fat consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, or physical activity. A structured content analysis of national nutrition, NCDs, and health policies published between 1 January 2004 and 1 January 2013 by 140 LMIC members of the World Health Organization (WHO) was carried out. We assessed availability of policies in 83% (116/140) of the countries. NCD strategies were found in 47% (54/116) of LMICs reviewed, but only a minority proposed actions to promote healthier diets and physical activity. The coverage of policies that specifically targeted at least one of the risk factors reviewed was lower in Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Eastern Mediterranean compared to the other two World Health Organization regions, South-East Asia and Western Pacific. Of the countries reviewed, only 12% (14/116) proposed a policy that addressed all four risk factors, and 25% (29/116) addressed only one of the risk factors reviewed. Strategies targeting the private sector were less frequently encountered than strategies targeting the general public or policy makers.
This review indicates the disconnection between the burden of NCDs and national policy responses in LMICs. Policy makers urgently need to develop comprehensive and multi-stakeholder policies to improve dietary quality and physical activity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)—chronic medical conditions including cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma)—are responsible for two-thirds of the world's deaths. Nearly 80% of NCD deaths, close to 30 million per year, occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where they are also rising most rapidly. Diet and lifestyle (including smoking, lack of exercise, and harmful alcohol consumption) influence a person's risk of developing an NCD and of dying from it. Because they can be modified, these risk factors have been at the center of strategies to combat NCDs. In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. For diet, it recommended that individuals achieve energy balance and a healthy weight; limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids; increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts; limit the intake of free sugars; and limit salt consumption from all sources and ensure that salt is iodized. For physical activity, it recommended at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity physical activity on most days throughout a person's life.
Why Was This Study Done?
By signing onto the Global Strategy in 2004, WHO member countries agreed to implement it with high priority. A first step of implementation is usually the development of local policies. Consequently, one of the four objectives of the WHO Global Strategy is “to encourage the development, strengthening and implementation of global, regional, national and community policies and action plans to improve diets and increase physical activity.” Along the same lines, in 2011 the United Nations held a high-level meeting in which the need to accelerate the policy response to the NCD epidemic was emphasized. This study was done to assess the existing national policies on NCD prevention in LMICs. Specifically, the researchers examined how well those policies matched the WHO recommendations for intake of salt, fat, and fruits and vegetables, as well as the recommendations for physical activity.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Internet (including websites of relevant ministries and departments) for all publicly available national policies related to diet, nutrition, NCDs, and health from all 140 WHO member countries classified as LMICs by the World Bank in 2011. For countries for which the search did not turn up policies, the researchers sent e-mail requests to the relevant national authorities, to the regional WHO offices, and to personal contacts. All documents dated from 1 January 2004 to 1 January 2013 that included national objectives and guidelines for action regarding diet, physical exercise, NCD prevention, or a combination of the three, were analyzed in detail.
Most of the policies obtained were not easy to find and access. For 24 countries, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, the researchers eventually gave up, unable to establish whether relevant national policies existed. Of the remaining 116 countries, 29 countries had no relevant policies, and another 30 had policies that failed to mention specifically any of the diet-related risk factors included in the analysis. Fifty-four of the 116 countries had NCD policies that addressed at least one of the risk factors. Thirty-six national policy documents contained strategies to increase fruit and vegetable intake, 20 addressed dietary fat consumption, 23 aimed to limit salt intake, and 35 had specific actions to promote physical activity. Only 14 countries, including Jamaica, the Philippines, Iran, and Mongolia, had policies that addressed all four risk factors. The policies of 27 countries mentioned only one of the four risk factors.
Policies primarily targeted consumers and government agencies and failed to address the roles of the business community or civil society. Consistent with this, most were missing plans, mechanisms, and incentives to drive collaborations between the different stakeholders.
What Do These Findings Mean?
More than eight years after the WHO Global Strategy was agreed upon, only a minority of the LMICs included in this analysis have comprehensive policies in place. Developing policies and making them widely accessible is a likely early step toward specific implementation and actions to prevent NCDs. These results therefore suggest that not enough emphasis is placed on NCD prevention in these countries through actions that have been proven to reduce known risk factors. That said, the more important question is what countries are actually doing to combat NCDs, something not directly addressed by this analysis.
In richer countries, NCDs have for decades been the leading cause of sickness and death, and the fact that public health strategies need to emphasize NCD prevention is now widely recognized. LMICs not only have more limited resources, they also continue to carry a large burden from infectious diseases. It is therefore not surprising that shifting resources towards NCD prevention is a difficult process, even if the human cost of these diseases is massive and increasing. That only about 3% of global health aid is aimed at NCD prevention does not help the situation.
The authors argue that one step toward improving the situation is better sharing of best practices and what works and what doesn't in policy development. They suggest that an open-access repository like one that exists for Europe could improve the situation. They offer to organize, host, and curate such a resource under the auspices of WHO, starting with the policies retrieved for this study, and they invite submission of additional policies and updates.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Stuckler and Basu
The WHO website on diet and physical activity contains links to various documents, including a diet and physical activity implementation toolbox that contains links to the 2004 Global Strategy document and a Framework to Monitor and Evaluate Implementation
There is a 2011 WHO primer on NCDs entitled Prioritizing a Preventable Epidemic
A recent PLOS Medicine editorial and call for papers addressing the global disparities in the burden from NCDs
A PLOS Blogs post entitled Politics and Global HealthAre We Missing the Obvious? and associated comments discuss the state of the fight against NCDs in early 2013
The NCD Alliance was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control, the International Diabetes Federation, the World Heart Federation, and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease; its mission is to combat the NCD epidemic by putting health at the center of all policies
The WHO European Database on Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity (NOPA) contains national and subnational surveillance data, policy documents, actions to implement policy, and examples of good practice in programs and interventions for the WHO European member states
PMCID: PMC3679005  PMID: 23776415
7.  A healthy turn in urban climate change policies; European city workshop proposes health indicators as policy integrators 
Environmental Health  2012;11(Suppl 1):S14.
The EU FP6 HENVINET project reviewed the potential relevance of a focus on climate change related health effects for climate change policies at the city region level. This was undertaken by means of a workshop with both scientists, city representatives from several EU-countries, representatives of EU city networks and EU-experts. In this paper we introduce some important health related climate change issues, and discuss the current city policies of the participating cities.
The workshop used a backcasting format to analyse the future relevance of a health perspective, and the main benefits and challenges this would bring to urban policy making.
It was concluded that health issues have an important function as indicators of success for urban climate change policies, given the extent to which climate change policies contribute to public health and as such to quality of life. Simultaneously the health perspective may function as a policy integrator in that it can combine several related policy objectives, such as environmental policies, health policies, urban planning and economic development policies, in one framework for action. Furthermore, the participants to the workshop considered public health to be of strategic importance in organizing public support for climate change policies. One important conclusion of the workshop was the view that the connection of science and policy at the city level is inadequate, and that the integration of scientific knowledge on climate change related health effects and local policy practice is in need of more attention. In conclusion, the workshop was viewed as a constructive advance in the process of integration which hopefully will lead to ongoing cooperation.
The workshop had the ambition to bring together a diversity of actor perspectives for exchange of knowledge and experiences, and joint understanding as a basis for future cooperation. Next to the complementarities in experience and knowledge, the mutual critical reflection was a bonus, as ideas had the opportunity to be scrutinized by others, leading to more robustness and common ground. The structured backcasting approach was helpful in integrating all of this with one common focus, embracing diversity and complexity, and stimulating reflection and new ideas.
PMCID: PMC3388442  PMID: 22759496
8.  Insights into the Management of Emerging Infections: Regulating Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Transfusion Risk in the UK and the US 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e342.
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is a human prion disease caused by infection with the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. After the recognition of vCJD in the UK in 1996, many nations implemented policies intended to reduce the hypothetical risk of transfusion transmission of vCJD. This was despite the fact that no cases of transfusion transmission had yet been identified. In December 2003, however, the first case of vCJD in a recipient of blood from a vCJD-infected donor was announced. The aim of this study is to ascertain and compare the factors that influenced the motivation for and the design of regulations to prevent transfusion transmission of vCJD in the UK and US prior to the recognition of this case.
Methods and Findings
A document search was conducted to identify US and UK governmental policy statements and guidance, transcripts (or minutes when transcripts were not available) of scientific advisory committee meetings, research articles, and editorials published in medical and scientific journals on the topic of vCJD and blood transfusion transmission between March 1996 and December 2003. In addition, 40 interviews were conducted with individuals familiar with the decision-making process and/or the science involved. All documents and transcripts were coded and analyzed according to the methods and principles of grounded theory. Data showed that while resulting policies were based on the available science, social and historical factors played a major role in the motivation for and the design of regulations to protect against transfusion transmission of vCJD. First, recent experience with and collective guilt resulting from the transfusion-transmitted epidemics of HIV/AIDS in both countries served as a major, historically specific impetus for such policies. This history was brought to bear both by hemophilia activists and those charged with regulating blood products in the US and UK. Second, local specificities, such as the recall of blood products for possible vCJD contamination in the UK, contributed to a greater sense of urgency and a speedier implementation of regulations in that country. Third, while the results of scientific studies played a prominent role in the construction of regulations in both nations, this role was shaped by existing social and professional networks. In the UK, early focus on a European study implicating B-lymphocytes as the carrier of prion infectivity in blood led to the introduction of a policy that requires universal leukoreduction of blood components. In the US, early focus on an American study highlighting the ability of plasma to serve as a reservoir of prion infectivity led the FDA and its advisory panel to eschew similar measures.
The results of this study yield three important theoretical insights that pertain to the global management of emerging infectious diseases. First, because the perception and management of disease may be shaped by previous experience with disease, especially catastrophic experience, there is always the possibility for over-management of some possible routes of transmission and relative neglect of others. Second, local specificities within a given nation may influence the temporality of decision making, which in turn may influence the choice of disease management policies. Third, a preference for science-based risk management among nations will not necessarily lead to homogeneous policies. This is because the exposure to and interpretation of scientific results depends on the existing social and professional networks within a given nation. Together, these theoretical insights provide a framework for analyzing and anticipating potential conflicts in the international management of emerging infectious diseases. In addition, this study illustrates the utility of qualitative methods in investigating research questions that are difficult to assess through quantitative means.
A qualitative study of US and UK governmental policy statements on the topic of vCJD and blood transfusion transmission identified factors responsible for differences in the policies adopted.
Editors' Summary
In 1996 in the UK, a new type of human prion disease was seen for the first time. This is now known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Prion diseases are rare brain diseases passed from individual to individual (or between animals) by a particular type of wrongly folded protein, and they are fatal. It was suspected that vCJD had passed to humans from cattle, and that the agent causing vCJD was the same as that causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or “mad cow disease”). Shortly after vCJD was recognized, authorities in many countries became concerned about the possibility that it could be transmitted from one person to another through contaminated blood supplies used for transfusion in hospitals. Even though there wasn't any evidence of actual transmission of the disease through blood before December 2003, authorities in the UK, US, and elsewhere set up regulations designed to reduce the chance of that happening. At this early stage in the epidemic, there was little in the way of scientific information about the transmission properties of the disease. Both the UK and US, however, sought to make decisions in a scientific manner. They made use of evidence as it was being produced, often before it had been published. Despite this, the UK and US decided on very different changes to their respective regulations on blood donation. Both countries chose to prevent certain people (who they thought would be at greater risk of having vCJD) from donating blood. In the UK, however, the decision was made to remove white blood cells from donated blood to reduce the risk of transmitting vCJD, while the US decided that such a step was not merited by the evidence.
Why Was This Study Done?
This researcher wanted to understand more clearly why the UK and US ended up with different policies: what role was played by science, and what role was played by non-scientific factors? She hoped that insights from this investigation would also be relevant to similar challenges in the future—for example, as many countries try to work out how to control the threat of avian flu.
What Did the Researcher Do and Find?
The researcher searched for all relevant official government documents from the US and UK, as well as scientific papers, published between the time vCJD was first identified (March 1996) and the first instance of vCJD carried through blood (December 2003). She also interviewed people who knew about vCJD management in the US and UK—for example, members of government agencies and the relevant advisory committees. From the documents and interviews, the researcher picked out and grouped shared ideas. Although these documents and interviews suggested that policy making was rooted in scientific evidence, many non-scientific factors were also important. The researcher found substantial uncertainty in the scientific evidence available at the time. The document search and interviews showed that policy makers felt guilty about a previous experience in which people had become infected with HIV/AIDS through contaminated blood and were concerned about repeating this experience. Finally, in the UK, the possibility of blood contamination was seen as a much more urgent problem than in the US, because BSE and vCJD were found there first and there were far more cases. This meant that when the UK made its decision about whether to remove white blood cells from donated blood, there was less scientific evidence available. In fact, the main study that was relied on at the time would later be questioned.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that for this particular case, science was not the only factor affecting government policies. Historical and social factors such as previous experience, sense of urgency, public pressure, and the relative importance of different scientific networks were also very important. The study predicts that in the future, infectious disease–related policy decisions are unlikely to be the same across different countries because the interpretation of scientific evidence depends, to a large extent, on social factors.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit, Edinburgh, UK
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pages about prion diseases
World Health Organization variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease fact sheet
US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke information about prion diseases
PMCID: PMC1621089  PMID: 17076547
9.  Policy Directions Addressing the Public Health Impact of Climate Change in South Korea: The Climate-change Health Adaptation and Mitigation Program 
Climate change, caused by global warming, is increasingly recognized as a major threat to mankind's survival. Climate change concurrently has both direct and modifying influences on environmental, social, and public health systems undermining human health as a whole. Environmental health policy-makers need to make use of political and technological alternatives to address these ramifying effects. The objective of this paper is to review public health policy in Korea, as well as internationally, particularly as it relates to climate change health adaptation and mitigation programs (such as C-CHAMP of Korea), in order to assess and elicit directions for a robust environmental health policy that is adaptive to the health impacts of climate change. In Korea, comprehensive measures to prevent or mitigate overall health effects are limited, and the diffusion of responsibility among various government departments makes consistency in policy execution very difficult. This paper proposes integration, synergy, and utilization as the three core principles of policy direction for the assessment and adaptation to the health impacts of climate change. For specific action plans, we suggest policy making based on scientifically integrated health impact assessments and the prioritization of environmental factors in climate change; the development of practical and technological tools that support policy decisions by making their political implementation more efficient; and customized policy development that deals with the vulnerability of local communities.
PMCID: PMC3524451  PMID: 23256088
Climate change; Health impacts; Policy directions
10.  Conclusion: applying South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme science to land-use management policy and practice in a changing landscape and climate 
The context and challenges relating to the remaining tropical rainforest are briefly reviewed and the roles which science can play in addressing questions are outlined. Key messages which articles in the special issue, mainly based on projects of the Royal Society South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP), have raised of relevance to policies on land use, land management and REDD+ are then considered. Results from the atmospheric science and hydrology papers, and some of the ecological ones, demonstrate the very high ecosystem service values of rainforest (compared with oil palm) in maintaining high biodiversity, good local air quality, reducing greenhouse emissions, and reducing landslide, flooding and sedimentation consequences of climate change—and hence provide science to underpin the protection of remaining forest, even if degraded and fragmented. Another group of articles test ways of restoring forest quality (in terms of biodiversity and carbon value) or maintaining as high biodiversity and ecological functioning levels as possible via intelligent design of forest zones and fragments within oil palm landscapes. Finally, factors that have helped to enhance the policy relevance of SEARRP projects and dissemination of their results to decision-makers are outlined.
PMCID: PMC3179643  PMID: 22006974
applying science; land use; land management; rainforest; Sabah
11.  Positioning women's and children's health in African union policy-making: a policy analysis 
With limited time to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, progress towards improving women's and children's health needs to be accelerated. With Africa accounting for over half of the world's maternal and child deaths, the African Union (AU) has a critical role in prioritizing related policies and catalysing required investments and action. In this paper, the authors assess the evolution of African Union policies related to women's and children's health, and analyze how these policies are prioritized and framed.
The main method used in this policy analysis was a document review of all African Union policies developed from 1963 to 2010, focusing specifically on policies that explicitly mention health. The findings from this document review were discussed with key actors to identify policy implications.
With over 220 policies in total, peace and security is the most common AU policy topic. Social affairs and other development issues became more prominent in the 1990s. The number of policies that mentioned health rose steadily over the years (with 1 policy mentioning health in 1963 to 7 in 2010).
This change was catalysed by factors such as: a favourable shift in AU priorities and systems towards development issues, spurred by the transition from the Organization of African Unity to the African Union; the mandate of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights; health-related advocacy initiatives, such as the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA); action and accountability requirements arising from international human rights treaties, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and new health-funding mechanisms, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Prioritization of women's and children's health issues in AU policies has been framed primarily by human rights, advocacy and accountability considerations, more by economic and health frames looking at investments and impact. AU policies related to reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health also use fewer policy frames than do AU policies related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
We suggest that more effective prioritization of women's and children's health in African Union policies would be supported by widening the range of policy frames used (notably health and economic) and strengthening the evidence base of all policy frames used. In addition, we suggest it would be beneficial if the partner groups advocating for women's and children's health were multi-stakeholder, and included, for instance, health care professionals, regional institutions, parliamentarians, the media, academia, NGOs, development partners and the public and private sectors.
PMCID: PMC3298467  PMID: 22340362
African Union; Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); policy-making; women's and children's health
12.  One Health: Past Successes and Future Challenges in Three African Contexts 
The recent emergence of zoonotic diseases such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have contributed to dominant Global Health narratives around health securitisation and pandemic preparedness, calling for greater co-operation between the health, veterinary and environmental sectors in the ever-evolving One Health movement. A decade later, One Health advocates face increasing pressure to translate the approach from theory into action.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A qualitative case study methodology was used to examine the emerging relationships between international One Health dialogue and its practical implementation in the African health policy context. A series of Key Informant Interviews (n = 32) with policy makers, government officials and academics in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda are presented as three separate case studies. Each case examines a significant aspect of One Health operationalisation, framed around the control of both emerging and Neglected Zoonotic Diseases including HPAI, Human African Trypanosomiasis and rabies. The research found that while there is general enthusiasm and a strong affirmative argument for adoption of One Health approaches in Africa, identifying alternative contexts away from a narrow focus on pandemics will help broaden its appeal, particularly for national or regionally significant endemic and neglected diseases not usually addressed under a “global” remit.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to achieving the intersectoral collaboration, significant resource mobilisation and political co-operation required to realise a One Health approach. Individual country requirements cannot be underestimated, dismissed or prescribed in a top down manner. This article contributes to the growing discussion regarding not whether One Health should be operationalised, but how this may be achieved.
Author Summary
The One Health movement requires more robust evidence around its practical implementation if it is to truly become a way forwards for addressing health issues at the human, animal and ecosystem interface. The research in this paper discusses some of the recent successes and challenges with both Emerging and Neglected zoonoses in the sub-Saharan Africa context. Through speaking to various human and animal health practitioners and policy makers in Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania, the authors have created three case studies highlighting the various successes of the approach to date, but also clarifying areas where the approach will take longer to implement, often as a result of the wide institutional and policy changes required in many countries. The authors conclude that whilst the “goodwill” is certainly there, the reality of planning, executing and budgeting for joint interventions – particularly at the national or regional level – proves in many cases more difficult than first thought. It is hoped however that through gaining better insight from those charged with the decision-making in these countries, One Health practitioners will be encouraged to build on the momentum through addressing some of the issues that arise with its implementation.
PMCID: PMC4031173  PMID: 24851901
13.  How can land-use modelling tools inform bioenergy policies? 
Interface Focus  2011;1(2):212-223.
Targets for bioenergy have been set worldwide to mitigate climate change. Although feedstock sources are often ambiguous, pledges in European nations, the United States and Brazil amount to more than 100 Mtoe of biorenewable fuel production by 2020. As a consequence, the biofuel sector is developing rapidly, and it is increasingly important to distinguish bioenergy options that can address energy security and greenhouse gas mitigation from those that cannot. This paper evaluates how bioenergy production affects land-use change (LUC), and to what extent land-use modelling can inform sound decision-making. We identified local and global internalities and externalities of biofuel development scenarios, reviewed relevant data sources and modelling approaches, identified sources of controversy about indirect LUC (iLUC) and then suggested a framework for comprehensive assessments of bioenergy. Ultimately, plant biomass must be managed to produce energy in a way that is consistent with the management of food, feed, fibre, timber and environmental services. Bioenergy production provides opportunities for improved energy security, climate mitigation and rural development, but the environmental and social consequences depend on feedstock choices and geographical location. The most desirable solutions for bioenergy production will include policies that incentivize regionally integrated management of diverse resources with low inputs, high yields, co-products, multiple benefits and minimal risks of iLUC. Many integrated assessment models include energy resources, trade, technological development and regional environmental conditions, but do not account for biodiversity and lack detailed data on the location of degraded and underproductive lands that would be ideal for bioenergy production. Specific practices that would maximize the benefits of bioenergy production regionally need to be identified before a global analysis of bioenergy-related LUC can be accomplished.
PMCID: PMC3262264  PMID: 22482028
indirect land-use change; biofuels; greenhouse gas; ecosystem services; environmental economics; feedstocks
14.  The future of the Amazon: new perspectives from climate, ecosystem and social sciences 
The potential loss or large-scale degradation of the tropical rainforests has become one of the iconic images of the impacts of twenty-first century environmental change and may be one of our century's most profound legacies. In the Amazon region, the direct threat of deforestation and degradation is now strongly intertwined with an indirect challenge we are just beginning to understand: the possibility of substantial regional drought driven by global climate change. The Amazon region hosts more than half of the world's remaining tropical forests, and some parts have among the greatest concentrations of biodiversity found anywhere on Earth. Overall, the region is estimated to host about a quarter of all global biodiversity. It acts as one of the major ‘flywheels’ of global climate, transpiring water and generating clouds, affecting atmospheric circulation across continents and hemispheres, and storing substantial reserves of biomass and soil carbon. Hence, the ongoing degradation of Amazonia is a threat to local climate stability and a contributor to the global atmospheric climate change crisis. Conversely, the stabilization of Amazonian deforestation and degradation would be an opportunity for local adaptation to climate change, as well as a potential global contributor towards mitigation of climate change. However, addressing deforestation in the Amazon raises substantial challenges in policy, governance, sustainability and economic science. This paper introduces a theme issue dedicated to a multidisciplinary analysis of these challenges.
PMCID: PMC2367686  PMID: 18267894
tropical forest; deforestation; climate change; fire; Amazonia; Brazil
15.  “Working the System”—British American Tobacco's Influence on the European Union Treaty and Its Implications for Policy: An Analysis of Internal Tobacco Industry Documents 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000202.
Katherine Smith and colleagues investigate the ways in which British American Tobacco influenced the European Union Treaty so that new EU policies advance the interests of major corporations, including those that produce products damaging to health.
Impact assessment (IA) of all major European Union (EU) policies is now mandatory. The form of IA used has been criticised for favouring corporate interests by overemphasising economic impacts and failing to adequately assess health impacts. Our study sought to assess how, why, and in what ways corporations, and particularly the tobacco industry, influenced the EU's approach to IA.
Methods and Findings
In order to identify whether industry played a role in promoting this system of IA within the EU, we analysed internal documents from British American Tobacco (BAT) that were disclosed following a series of litigation cases in the United States. We combined this analysis with one of related literature and interviews with key informants. Our analysis demonstrates that from 1995 onwards BAT actively worked with other corporate actors to successfully promote a business-oriented form of IA that favoured large corporations. It appears that BAT favoured this form of IA because it could advance the company's European interests by establishing ground rules for policymaking that would: (i) provide an economic framework for evaluating all policy decisions, implicitly prioritising costs to businesses; (ii) secure early corporate involvement in policy discussions; (iii) bestow the corporate sector with a long-term advantage over other actors by increasing policymakers' dependence on information they supplied; and (iv) provide businesses with a persuasive means of challenging potential and existing legislation. The data reveal that an ensuing lobbying campaign, largely driven by BAT, helped secure binding changes to the EU Treaty via the Treaty of Amsterdam that required EU policymakers to minimise legislative burdens on businesses. Efforts subsequently focused on ensuring that these Treaty changes were translated into the application of a business orientated form of IA (cost–benefit analysis [CBA]) within EU policymaking procedures. Both the tobacco and chemical industries have since employed IA in apparent attempts to undermine key aspects of European policies designed to protect public health.
Our findings suggest that BAT and its corporate allies have fundamentally altered the way in which all EU policy is made by making a business-oriented form of IA mandatory. This increases the likelihood that the EU will produce policies that advance the interests of major corporations, including those that produce products damaging to health, rather than in the interests of its citizens. Given that the public health community, focusing on health IA, has largely welcomed the increasing policy interest in IA, this suggests that urgent consideration is required of the ways in which IA can be employed to undermine, as well as support, effective public health policies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The primary goal of public health, the branch of medicine concerned with the health of communities, is to improve lives by preventing disease. Public-health groups do this by assessing and monitoring the health of communities, by ensuring that populations have access to appropriate and cost-effective health care, and by helping to formulate public policies that safeguard human health. Until recently, most of the world's major public-health concerns related to infectious diseases. Nowadays, however, many major public-health concerns are linked to the goods made and marketed by large corporations such as fast food, alcohol, tobacco, and chemicals. In Europe, these corporations are regulated by policies drawn up both by member states and by the European Commission, the executive organ of the European Union (EU; an economic and political partnership among 27 democratic European countries). Thus, for example, the tobacco industry, which is widely recognized as a driver of the smoking epidemic, is regulated by Europe-wide tobacco control policies and member state level policies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Since 1997, the European Commission has been required by law to assess the economic, social (including health), and environmental consequences of new policy initiatives using a process called an “impact assessment” (IA). Because different types of IA examine the likely effects of policies on different aspects of daily life—a health impact assessment, for example, focuses on a policy's effect on health—the choice of IA can lead to different decisions being taken about new policies. Although the IA tool adopted by the European Commission aims to assess economic, environmental and social impacts, independent experts suggest this tool does not adequately assess health impacts. Instead, economic impacts receive the most attention, a situation that may favour the interests of large businesses. In this study, the researchers seek to identify how and why the EU's approach to IA developed. More specifically, the researchers analyze internal documents from British American Tobacco (BAT), which have been disclosed because of US litigation cases, to find out whether industry has played a role in promoting the EU's system of IA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed 714 BAT internal documents (identified by searching the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, which contains more than 10 million internal tobacco company documents) that concerned attempts made by BAT to influence regulatory reforms in Europe. They also analyzed related literature from other sources (for example, academic publications) and interviewed 16 relevant people (including people who had worked at the European Commission). This analysis shows that from 1995, BAT worked with other businesses to promote European regulatory reforms (in particular, the establishment of a business-orientated form of IA) that favor large corporations. A lobbying campaign, initiated by BAT but involving a “policy network” of other companies, first helped to secure binding changes to the EU Treaty that require policymakers to minimize legislative burdens on businesses. The analysis shows that after achieving this goal, which BAT described as an “important victory,” further lobbying ensured that these treaty changes were translated into the implementation of a business-orientated form of IA within the EU. Both the tobacco industry and the chemical industry, the researchers argue, have since used the IA to delay and/or weaken EU legislation intended to protect public health.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that BAT and its corporate allies have fundamentally altered the way in which EU policy is made by ensuring that all significant EU policy decisions have to be assessed using a business-orientated IA. As the authors note, this situation increases the likelihood that the EU will produce policies that favor big business rather than the health of its citizens. Furthermore, these findings suggest that by establishing a network of other industries to help in lobbying for EU Treaty changes, BAT was able to distance itself from the push to establish a business-orientated IA to the extent that Commission officials were unaware of the involvement of the tobacco industry in campaigns for IA. Thus, in future, to safeguard public health, policymakers and public-health groups must pay more attention to corporate efforts to shape decision-making processes. In addition, public-health groups must take account of the ways in which IA can be used to undermine as well as support effective public-health policies and they must collaborate more closely in their efforts to ensure effective national and international policy.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has a page on public health (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
More information on the European Union (in several languages), on public health in the European Union, and on impact assessment by the European Commission is available
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages)
The Smoke Free Partnership contains more information about smoking prevalence in Europe and about European policies to tackle the public health issues associated with tobacco use
For more information about tobacco industry influence on policy see the 2009 World Health Organization report on tobacco industry interference with tobacco control
PMCID: PMC2797088  PMID: 20084098
16.  How can scientists bring research to use: the HENVINET experience 
Environmental Health  2012;11(Suppl 1):S2.
Health concerns have driven the European environmental policies of the last 25 years, with issues becoming more complex. Addressing these concerns requires an approach that is both interdisciplinary and engages scientists with society. In response to this requirement, the FP6 coordination action “Health and Environment Network” HENVINET was set up to create a permanent inter-disciplinary network of professionals in the field of health and environment tasked to bridge the communication gap between science and society. In this paper we describe how HENVINET delivered on this task.
The HENVINET project approached the issue of inter-disciplinary collaboration in four ways. (1) The Drivers-Pressures-State-Exposure-Effect-Action framework was used to structure information gathering, collaboration and communication between scientists in the field of health and the environment. (2) Interactive web-based tools were developed to enhance methods for knowledge evaluation, and use these methods to formulate policy advice. (3) Quantification methods were adapted to measure scientific agreement. And (4) Open architecture web technology was used to develop an information repository and a web portal to facilitate collaboration and communication among scientists.
Twenty-five organizations from Europe and five from outside Europe participated in the Health and Environment Network HENVINET, which lasted for 3.5 years. The consortium included partners in environmental research, public health and veterinary medicine; included medical practitioners and representatives of local administrations; and had access to national policy making and EEA and WHO expertise. Dedicated web-based tools for visualisation of environmental health issues and knowledge evaluation allowed remote expert elicitation, and were used as a basis for developing policy advice in five health areas (asthma and allergies; cancer; neurodevelopmental disorders; endocrine disruption; and engineered nanoparticles in the environment). An open searchable database of decision support tools was established and populated. A web based social networking tool was developed to enhance collaboration and communication between scientists and society.
HENVINET addressed key issues that arise in inter-disciplinary research on health and environment and in communicating research results to policy makers and society. HENVINET went beyond traditional scientific tools and methods to bridge the communication gap between science and policy makers. The project identified the need for a common framework and delivered it. It developed and implemented a variety of novel methods and tools and, using several representative examples, demonstrated the process of producing politically relevant scientific advice based on an open participation of experts. It highlighted the need for, and benefits of, a liaison between health and environment professionals and professionals in the social sciences and liberal arts. By adopting critical complexity thinking, HENVINET extended the traditional approach to environment and health research, and set the standard for current approaches to bridge the gap between science and society.
PMCID: PMC3388450  PMID: 22759502
17.  Scientific Support by the BONUS+ Projects for the Sustainability of the Baltic Sea Region: The Case of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan 
Ambio  2014;43(1):1-10.
The synthesis of the BONUS+ research is introduced. The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan is examined as a case to illustrate the potentials and challenges in building the science–policymaking interface on a macroregional level. The projects address environmental challenges in the Baltic Sea as defined by the Baltic Sea Action Plan, or consider the environmental governance and decision making within the Baltic Sea context in general. Eutrophication, biodiversity, hazardous substances, maritime activities, and the environment governance are addressed, as are crosscutting issues, such as the impact of climate change, maritime spatial planning and impacts of future development on ecosystem services. The projects contributed to relevant policy developments: 37 consultations carried out at EU level, 49 modifications to policy documents and action plans, 153 suggestions for the efficacy of pertinent public policies and governance, and in 570 occasions, scientists working in BONUS+ projects served as members or observers in scientific and stakeholder committees.
PMCID: PMC3888661  PMID: 24414800
Baltic Sea; HELCOM; The joint Baltic Sea research and development programme; Linking science and policy; Sustainable ecosystem services
18.  Food security and marine capture fisheries: characteristics, trends, drivers and future perspectives 
World population is expected to grow from the present 6.8 billion people to about 9 billion by 2050. The growing need for nutritious and healthy food will increase the demand for fisheries products from marine sources, whose productivity is already highly stressed by excessive fishing pressure, growing organic pollution, toxic contamination, coastal degradation and climate change. Looking towards 2050, the question is how fisheries governance, and the national and international policy and legal frameworks within which it is nested, will ensure a sustainable harvest, maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functions, and adapt to climate change. This paper looks at global fisheries production, the state of resources, contribution to food security and governance. It describes the main changes affecting the sector, including geographical expansion, fishing capacity-building, natural variability, environmental degradation and climate change. It identifies drivers and future challenges, while suggesting how new science, policies and interventions could best address those challenges.
PMCID: PMC2935129  PMID: 20713390
capture fisheries; food security; future; overfishing; environmental degradation; conservation
19.  Wild canids as sentinels of ecological health: a conservation medicine perspective 
Parasites & Vectors  2009;2(Suppl 1):S7.
The extinction of species across the globe is accelerating, directly or indirectly due to human activities. Biological impoverishment, habitat fragmentation, climate change, increasing toxification, and the rapid global movement of people and other living organisms have worked synergistically to diminish ecosystem function. This has resulted in unprecedented levels of disease emergence, driven by human-induced environmental degradation, which poses a threat to the survival and health of biodiversity. The emerging discipline of conservation medicine addresses these concerns through the following entities: humans; global climate; habitat destruction and alteration; biodiversity, including wildlife populations; domestic animals; and pathogens, parasites and pollutants. Furthermore, conservation medicine focuses on explicit linkages between these entities. As a crisis discipline, the usefulness of conservation medicine ultimately will depend on its applicability to solving problems. The perspectives and scientific findings of conservation medicine provide input into biomedical education; and policy and management of ecosystems, habitats and imperiled species. A sentinel species is one that has presented itself, or has been selected, to provide insight into the state (health) of an ecosystem, based on user-defined (e.g., researchers, conservationists or policymakers) objectives (e.g., disease, parasites, toxics, climate change, habitat destruction), coupled with the utility and vulnerability of this species to the perceived stress. The scientific information generated by the sentinel species should empower stakeholders and decision-makers to take mitigative action or support predictive capabilities; the "utility" of the species selected should consider its value and relevance to conservationists and to society at large (e.g., education and outreach; social sciences). Wild canids may serve as excellent sentinel species of emerging canine vector-borne diseases. Several canine vector-borne diseases or antibodies to these pathogens have been identified in wild canids including visceral leishmaniosis, Lyme disease, heartworm, hepatozoonosis and anaplasmosis to name a few. These reports are relatively recent as they relate to wildlife-domestic animal interactions, globalisation, translocations, habitat fragmentation and climate change. These pathogens and their relationship to wild canids are described herein. Further research needs to be performed to elucidate the role of the 36 extant species of wild canids in the epidemiology of canine vector-borne diseases.
PMCID: PMC2679399  PMID: 19426446
20.  Uneven dietary development: linking the policies and processes of globalization with the nutrition transition, obesity and diet-related chronic diseases 
In a "nutrition transition", the consumption of foods high in fats and sweeteners is increasing throughout the developing world. The transition, implicated in the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases worldwide, is rooted in the processes of globalization. Globalization affects the nature of agri-food systems, thereby altering the quantity, type, cost and desirability of foods available for consumption. Understanding the links between globalization and the nutrition transition is therefore necessary to help policy makers develop policies, including food policies, for addressing the global burden of chronic disease. While the subject has been much discussed, tracing the specific pathways between globalization and dietary change remains a challenge.
To help address this challenge, this paper explores how one of the central mechanisms of globalization, the integration of the global marketplace, is affecting the specific diet patterns. Focusing on middle-income countries, it highlights the importance of three major processes of market integration: (I) production and trade of agricultural goods; (II) foreign direct investment in food processing and retailing; and (III) global food advertising and promotion.
The paper reveals how specific policies implemented to advance the globalization agenda account in part for some recent trends in the global diet. Agricultural production and trade policies have enabled more vegetable oil consumption; policies on foreign direct investment have facilitated higher consumption of highly-processed foods, as has global food marketing. These dietary outcomes also reflect the socioeconomic and cultural context in which these policies are operating.
An important finding is that the dynamic, competitive forces unleashed as a result of global market integration facilitates not only convergence in consumption habits (as is commonly assumed in the "Coca-Colonization" hypothesis), but adaptation to products targeted at different niche markets. This convergence-divergence duality raises the policy concern that globalization will exacerbate uneven dietary development between rich and poor. As high-income groups in developing countries accrue the benefits of a more dynamic marketplace, lower-income groups may well experience convergence towards poor quality obseogenic diets, as observed in western countries.
Global economic polices concerning agriculture, trade, investment and marketing affect what the world eats. They are therefore also global food and health policies. Health policy makers should pay greater attention to these policies in order to address some of the structural causes of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases worldwide, especially among the groups of low socioeconomic status.
PMCID: PMC1440852  PMID: 16569239
21.  Consequences of human modification of the global nitrogen cycle 
The demand for more food is increasing fertilizer and land use, and the demand for more energy is increasing fossil fuel combustion, leading to enhanced losses of reactive nitrogen (Nr) to the environment. Many thresholds for human and ecosystem health have been exceeded owing to Nr pollution, including those for drinking water (nitrates), air quality (smog, particulate matter, ground-level ozone), freshwater eutrophication, biodiversity loss, stratospheric ozone depletion, climate change and coastal ecosystems (dead zones). Each of these environmental effects can be magnified by the ‘nitrogen cascade’: a single atom of Nr can trigger a cascade of negative environmental impacts in sequence. Here, we provide an overview of the impact of Nr on the environment and human health, including an assessment of the magnitude of different environmental problems, and the relative importance of Nr as a contributor to each problem. In some cases, Nr loss to the environment is the key driver of effects (e.g. terrestrial and coastal eutrophication, nitrous oxide emissions), whereas in some other situations nitrogen represents a key contributor exacerbating a wider problem (e.g. freshwater pollution, biodiversity loss). In this way, the central role of nitrogen can remain hidden, even though it actually underpins many trans-boundary pollution problems.
PMCID: PMC3682738  PMID: 23713116
food security; reactive nitrogen; environmental effects; human health; climate; biodiversity
22.  Is Hunting Still Healthy? Understanding the Interrelationships between Indigenous Participation in Land-Based Practices and Human-Environmental Health 
Indigenous participation in land-based practices such as hunting, fishing, ceremony, and land care has a long history. In recent years, researchers and policy makers have advocated the benefits of these practices for both Indigenous people and the places they live. However, there have also been documented risks associated with participation in these activities. Environmental change brought about by shifts in land use, climate changes, and the accumulation of contaminants in the food chain sit alongside equally rapid shifts in social, economic and cultural circumstances, preferences and practices. To date, the literature has not offered a wide-ranging review of the available cross-disciplinary or cross-ecozone evidence for these intersecting benefits and risks, for both human and environmental health and wellbeing. By utilising hunting as a case study, this paper seeks to fill part of that gap through a transdisciplinary meta-analysis of the international literature exploring the ways in which Indigenous participation in land-based practices and human-environmental health have been studied, where the current gaps are, and how these findings could be used to inform research and policy. The result is an intriguing summary of disparate research that highlights the patchwork of contradictory understandings, and uneven regional emphasis, that have been documented. A new model was subsequently developed that facilitates a more in-depth consideration of these complex issues within local-global scale considerations. These findings challenge the bounded disciplinary and geographic spaces in which much of this work has occurred to date, and opens a dialogue to consider the importance of approaching these issues holistically.
PMCID: PMC4078546  PMID: 24879487
Indigenous; land-based practices; health; environment; transdisciplinary
23.  Health impacts of climate change and ozone depletion: an ecoepidemiologic modeling approach. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1998;106(Suppl 1):241-251.
Anthropogenic climate changes and stratospheric ozone depletion affect human health in various ways. Current mainstream epidemiologic research methods do not appear well adapted to analyze these health impacts, which involve complex systems influenced by human interventions or simpler processes that will take place in the future. This paper discusses a different paradigm for studying the health impacts of global environmental changes and focuses on the development of integrated ecoepidemiologic models using three examples--the effect of climate change on vector-borne diseases, the effect of climate change on thermal-related mortality, and the effects of increasing ultraviolet levels because of ozone depletion on the rates of skin cancer.
PMCID: PMC1533278  PMID: 9539017
24.  Can scientists and policy makers work together? 
This paper addresses a fundamental question in evidence based policy making—can scientists and policy makers work together? It first provides a scenario outlining the different mentalities and imperatives of scientists and policy makers, and then discusses various issues and solutions relating to whether and how scientists and policy makers can work together. Scientists and policy makers have different goals, attitudes toward information, languages, perception of time, and career paths. Important issues affecting their working together include lack of mutual trust and respect, different views on the production and use of evidence, different accountabilities, and whether there should be a link between science and policy. The suggested solutions include providing new incentives to encourage scientists and policy makers to work together, using knowledge brokers (translational scientists), making organisational changes, defining research in a broader sense, re-defining the starting point for knowledge transfer, expanding the accountability horizon, and finally, acknowledging the complexity of policy making. It is hoped that further discussion and debate on the partnership idea, the need for incentives, recognising the incompatibility problems, the role of civil society, and other related themes will lead to new opportunities for further advancing evidence based policy and practice.
PMCID: PMC1733111  PMID: 16020638
25.  The gender perspective in climate change and global health 
Global Health Action  2010;3:10.3402/gha.v3i0.5720.
Population health is a primary goal of sustainable development. United Nations international conferences like the Beijing Platform for Action have highlighted the key role of women in ensuring sustainable development. In the context of climate change, women are affected the most while they display knowledge and skills to orient themselves toward climate adaptation activities within their societies.
To investigate how the gender perspective is addressed as an issue in research and policy-making concerning climate change and global health.
A broad literature search was undertaken using the databases Pubmed and Web of Science to explore the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘health,’ ‘gender,’ and ‘policy.’ Climate change and health-related policy documents of the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Communications and National Adaptation Programs of Action reports submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of selected countries were studied. Assessment guidelines to review these reports were developed from this study's viewpoint.
The database search results showed almost no articles when the four terms were searched together. The WHO documents lacked a gender perspective in their approach and future recommendations on climate policies. The reviewed UN reports were also neutral to gender perspective except one of the studied documents.
Despite recognizing the differential effects of climate change on health of women and men as a consequence of complex social contexts and adaptive capacities, the study finds gender to be an underrepresented or non-existing variable both in research and studied policy documents in the field of climate change and health.
PMCID: PMC3001868  PMID: 21160554
climate change; health; gender; policy; global health

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