U of G Hosts Course in Ecohealth

July 03, 2009 - News Release

The University of Guelph will host the second instalment of a pioneering course in ecohealth, an emerging field that promotes a holistic approach to solving complex human, animal and environmental issues.

The intensive course in ecosystem approaches to health takes place at U of G July 6 to 18. Twenty-five graduate students and health practitioners will take part in the course, which is taught by internationally renowned researchers in disciplines spanning family medicine, veterinary medicine, sociology, philosophy, political science and geography. The course takes an integrative approach to health that grapples with complex systems through a combination of in-class theory and an unfolding field-based case study.

The mammoth challenges facing society as a result of climate change and zoonotic pandemics have led to a growing demand for ecohealth research and practice, said Bruce Hunter, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology.

“Ecohealth has developed in response to the recognition that human health and well-being is embedded within the health of the ecosystem,” said Hunter, who is part of the course design team that includes researchers at the University of British Columbia and Université du Québec à Montréal. Other Guelph members of the team are Profs. David Waltner-Toews, Population Medicine, and Karen Houle, Philosophy, as well as co-ordinator Cheryl Massey and project facilitator Suzanne McCullagh.

The course is one of the initiatives of the Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health (CoPEH –Canada), funded by the International Development Research Centre. This year’s course is the second in a series of three. The inaugural course took place last summer at UBC, and next year the course will be held in Quebec. The goal is to turn the short course into an accredited graduate course.

“New global problems require new ways of thinking and doing,” said Waltner-Toews. “This course is a first step towards helping these new approaches find a home in academic and public institutions built to respond to very different challenges.”

Two lectures from this course will be open to the public:

McMaster University anthropologist Dawn Martin-Hill will talk about indigenous ecological knowledge July 7 at 8 p.m. at Belwood Hall in Belwood. Hill, who is academic director of the indigenous studies program at McMaster, is a mother of four living at the Six Nations of the Grand River. She is interested in developing a curriculum with recognition of aboriginal thought. Her research interests include indigenous knowledge and aboriginal women, spirituality and indigenous medicine, the contemporary practice of indigenous traditionalism and global cross-cultural comparisons of indigenous people.

David Hall will discuss agriculture and animal disease as part of the Café Scientifique public lecture series at the eBar in Guelph July 16 at 7 p.m. Hall is a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College and has a PhD in agricultural economics from Texas A&M. He has practised veterinary medicine in Canada and internationally, with much of his work related to animal production, economics and policy, particularly bovine and more recently poultry systems.

“Combatting newly emerging infectious diseases continues to require more integrated approaches to health management, not only at the level of agricultural resources but also at the level of institutional co-operation,” said Hall. “Avian influenza in Asia serves as an example, but the lessons are important for other diseases and countries.”

For more information, contact Bruce Hunter at 519-824-4120, Ext. 54625, or bhunter@ovc.uoguelph.ca. For media calls, contact U of G Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338 or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982 or bagunn@uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
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Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1