The Infectious Disease Emergence and Economics of Altered Landscapes Project (IDEEAL) has four main goals:
- Build models of land-use change and economics of disease emergence that can be used by local and regional decision makers;
- Describe the relationship between disease emergence, land-use change, and human behavior, and quantify an ecosystem’s disease regulating value;
- Build toolkits and establish a center of excellence to develop and promote best practices, research, and reduced-impact land use guidance; and
- Engage private companies and educate and empower civil society stakeholders to work together for a healthy and sustainable future.
Land-use change is a significant driver of emerging infectious disease; nearly half of the spread of emerging diseases like SARS, Nipah, and Ebola is attributable to land-use change. We are creating models, not only of rapid land-use change for purposes of urbanization and agricultural expansion, but also of the cost of emerging disease outbreaks. With these models, we can provide those in charge of making decisions about our globe’s quickly changing landscape tools which will empower them to make smart choices, for the health of humans, of their jurisdiction’s unique wildlife, and of the environment as a whole.
Our modeling strategy calculates the value of damages from past disease outbreaks, and displays expected damages under different land-use scenarios and different outbreak severities. We then run our models with data incorporating different rates of exposure to disease by men and women of all ages.
Describing One Health Relationships
Forest degradation due to agricultural intensification and other human activities accounts for about 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, roughly equivalent to the emissions generated by the entire global transportation sector. It is also a significant driver of emerging diseases: as the natural habitat for wild animals is altered or destroyed, they come into more frequent contact with humans, increasing the chances for spillover of new or emerging diseases into human populations. Seventy-five percent of emerging diseases affecting humans originated in animals. By describing the complex relationships between land-use change and disease emergence, or ecosystem well-being and human health, we can ensure that stakeholders are making smart choices for the future.
The USAID-funded IDEEAL project is currently based in the Kinabatangan Basin in Sabah, Malaysia. Working closely with the Sabah Wildlife Department, the University of Malaysia Sabah, and other community groups, we have established tools like regular seminars and the Development and Health Research Unit (DHRU). These create a resource for groups ranging from students to industry leaders to share ideas on how to reduce the risk of disease emergence as a consequence of land-use change and development.
Engaging Private Companies
EcoHealth Alliance has spent the past 45+ years addressing complex environmental and social challenges through multidisciplinary, collaborative international networks. Leveraging that vast experience, we can encourage local leaders like civil society stakeholders to work together and create a healthy, sustainable future.