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Introduction to Ecosystem Health: Challenges at the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health

Many of the world’s most “wicked” and urgent grand challenges occur at the interface of humans, animals and the environment. For instance, in a given region of the world, how do we manage the effects of climate change, disease emergence, food and water security, gender, and conflict and poverty, to ensure the health of humans and animals? For many grand challenges like this, we observe a common theme: human health depends upon the environment, and the environment depends on the health and sustainability of human communities.

These large-scale grand challenges can often become overwhelming, and a solution that considers only one aspect of health often seems daunting and difficult to implement in policy. How can we usefully understand the interactions between these challenges to contribute to solutions? How can one’s own discipline and career path relate to these complex grand challenges? How do we build teams and partnerships across disciplines to engage at the scale of the problem?

This course introduces Ecosystem Health (ESH) as a framework and practice for developing complex solutions for grand challenges. In particular, the course will:

  • focus on the emerging discipline of Ecosystem Health, and associated approaches and technologies that support solutions to grand challenges of health at the interface of humans, animals and the environment.
  • introduce a toolset for approaching, defining, and responding to these grand challenges, including systems thinking, complexity science, and integrative leadership.
  • interrogate the conflicts that exist between differing conceptions of health, through the study of several complex cases.