Anthropogenic land use changes drive a range of infectious disease outbreaks and emergence events and modify the transmission of endemic infections. These drivers include agricultural encroachment, deforestation, road construction, dam building, irrigation, wetland modification, mining, the concentration or expansion of urban environments, coastal zone degradation, and other activities. These changes in turn cause a cascade of factors that exacerbate infectious disease emergence, such as forest fragmentation, disease introduction, pollution, poverty, and human migration. The Working Group on Land Use Change and Disease Emergence grew out of a special colloquium that convened international experts in infectious diseases, ecology, and environmental health to assess the current state of knowledge and to develop recommendations for addressing these environmental health challenges. The group established a systems model approach and priority lists of infectious diseases affected by ecologic degradation. Policy relevant levels of the model include specific health risk factors, landscape or habitat change, and institutional (economic and behavioral) levels. The group recommended creating Centers of ExceHence in Ecology and Health Research and Training, based at regional universities and/or research institutes with close links to the surrounding communities. The centers' objectives would be 3-fold: a) to provide information to local communities about the links between environmental change and public health; b) to facilitate fully interdisciplinary research from a variety of natural, social, and health sciences and train professionals who can conduct interdisciplinary research; and c) to engage in science-based communication and assessment for policy making toward sustainable health and ecosystems.
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