EcoHealth Alliance and Johnson & Johnson Partner to Promote Sustainable Development in West Africa

NEW YORK – November 28, 2018 – EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit working at the intersection of animal, environmental, and human health on a global scale, announced a new project aimed at promoting sustainable development in West Africa, while protecting key biodiversity areas for conservation and reducing risks to human health from the emergence of infectious diseases. EcoHealth Alliance and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) are partnering to pioneer the development of a One Health policy framework for making land-use decisions that account for socioeconomic factors, together with environmental and human health outcomes. The intent is that this approach can help us tackle rising deforestation rates in West Africa. This partnership is initially focused on Liberia, which has the highest percentage of pristine forest on the continent. The partnership aims to bring together the private sector, local communities, and government to demonstrate how this framework can be used effectively. The three-year long project is being funded by a grant from Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc.

PROJECT BACKGROUND
The majority of deforestation in West Africa is driven by expanding agriculture. Land-use change like this can have many unintended consequences. Destruction of a natural forest eliminates the benefits it provides, such as water and air filtration, carbon sequestration, and flood prevention. It also forces closer contact between humans and wildlife and, with this, increases the risk of disease. In fact, as many as 31 percent of outbreaks of emerging diseases like Ebola, and others like malaria or leptospirosis, are related to land-use change.

The short-term gains of agricultural development are clear; however, the longer-term costs can be less obvious. By connecting the two, the EcoHealth Alliance and J&J partnership aims to encourage smart development which favors economic growth, public health, and sustainability.

"We’ve had great success in connecting the dots between public health and conservation," EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak said. "With this project we want to do just that. We want emerging industries to thrive, but we want to keep people and animals healthy at the same time. By applying our scientific expertise, we can assist stakeholders in making good sense decisions which will allow Liberia to prosper, while keeping the people and animals there healthy at the same time."

In service of that mission, EcoHealth Alliance will be creating an audit protocol for use by agricultural and extractive industry stakeholders. The tool will determine areas of disease risk, discouraging wide-scale development in areas of importance to maintaining biodiversity. EcoHealth Alliance scientists will also confer with policymakers to show the benefits of sustainable growth.

"We’ve long admired the groundbreaking work that EcoHealth Alliance has been doing in the One Health field," Paulette Frank, Vice President, Worldwide EHS&SJ&J, said. "When we saw that there was an opportunity to address issues such as deforestation, sequestering carbon, preserving biodiversity, and reducing the risk of emerging disease outbreaks all in one project, we were compelled to get involved."

EcoHealth Alliance has been working in Liberia since the West African Ebola outbreak ended in 2016 and maintains key relationships with local scientists and industry stakeholders which are key for moving this project forward. J&J has also had a presence in Liberia for several years supporting programs which strengthen maternal and newborn health services through midwifery care.

Work on the project will begin in December 2018.

About EcoHealth Alliance
Building on over 45 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife, environmental, and public health from the emergence of disease. Approximately 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases like Ebola, HIV, Zika, SARS, MERS, and West Nile virus have all originated in animals before spilling over to human populations. Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions to determine where research and field work are needed to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance's rigorous, science-based approach working in nearly 30 countries worldwide. EcoHealth Alliance's strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, capacity building, and policy initiatives.
Press contact: Anthony Ramos, (212) 380-4469 or ramos@ecohealthalliance.org

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