Conservation medicine is an emerging, interdisciplinary field that studies the relationship between human and animal health, and environmental conditions. Also known as ecological medicine, environmental medicine, or medical geology.
The environmental causes of health problems are complex, global, and poorly understood. Conservation medicine practitioners form multidisciplinary teams to tackle these issues. Teams may involve physicians and veterinarians working alongside researchers and clinicians from diverse disciplines, including microbiologists, pathologists, landscape analysts, marine biologists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, climate biologists, anthropologists, economists, and political scientists.
The term conservation medicine was first used in the mid-1990s, and represents a significant development in both medicine and environmentalism. While the hands-on process in individual cases is complicated, the underlying concept is quite intuitive, namely, that all things[vague] are related. The threat of zoonotic diseases that travel to humans from animals is central. For example, burning huge areas of forest to make way for farmland may displace a wild animal species, which then infects a domesticated animal. The domesticated animal then enters the human food chain and infects people, and a new health threat emerges. Conventional approaches to the environment, animal and human health rarely examine these connections. In conservation medicine, such relationships are fundamental. Professionals from the many disciplines involved, necessarily work closely together.
Looking at the environment and health together, conservation medicine has the potential to effect rapid change in public opinion on complex societal issues, by making the distant and ill-defined, local and pressing. For instance, global warming may vaguely define long-term impacts, but an immediate effect may be a relatively slight rise in air temperature. This in turn raises the flight ceiling for temperature-sensitive mosquitoes, allowing them to feed on higher flying migratory birds than usual, which in turn may carry a disease from one country or continent to another.
Likewise, the broad topic of suburban sprawl is made more relevant when seen in terms of the immediate imbalance it brings to rural ecosystems, which increases population densities and forces humans into closer contact with animals (like rodents), increasing the risk of new cross-species diseases. When tied to actual cases (such as SARS or HIV/AIDS), this holistic outlook resonates more powerfully with the public than more abstract explanations.
- One Health
- Coupled human-environment system
- Gary Tabor, wildlife veterinarian, conservation biologist, conservation catalyst
- Weinhold, Bob. "Conservation Medicine: Combining the Best of All Worlds", Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), Vol. 111, No. 10, August 2003. EHP is the monthly, peer-reviewed journal of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
- Motavalli, Jim. "Connecting the Dots: The Emerging Science of Conservation Medicine Links Human and Animal Health with the Environment", E—The Environmental Magazine, November/December 2004.
- Motavalli, Jim. "Too Darn Hot Global Warming Accelerates the Spread of Disease", E—The Environmental Magazine, November/December 2004.
- Moss, Doug. "E WORD: Conservation Health", E—The Environmental Magazine, November/December 2004.
- Aguirre (Editor), A. Alonso, et al. Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice, Oxford University Press (Sep 2002) ISBN 0-19-515093-7.
- Conservation Medicine Lecture topics from Tropical and Travel Medicine Series, University of Minnesota.
- The Consortium for Conservation Medicine
CCM partners include:
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health - Department of Environmental Health Sciences
- Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine
- USGS National Wildlife Health Center
- University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
- University of Wisconsin–Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
- Wildlife Trust
- Conservation Medicine Center of Chicago (CMCC) is a collaboration among the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo; Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine; and the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Murdoch University, Perth, Australia, School of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences offers a Master of Veterinary Studies in Conservation Medicine as well as a Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Conservation Medicine
- "Ecological Medicine: A Call for Inquiry and Action" (February 2002). Formal statement from Science & Environmental Health Network (SEHN), a "consortium of North American environmental organizations"
- EcoHealth Journal "Conservation Medicine, Human Health, Ecosystem Sustainability"