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|Focus||Pandemic prevention, Scientific research, One Health, Conservation|
EcoHealth Alliance is a non-governmental organization which employs a 'One Health' approach to protecting the health of people, animals, and the environment from emerging infectious diseases. The nonprofit is a global organization focused on scientific research that aims to prevent pandemics and promote conservation in hotspot regions worldwide.
Their mission statement reads: “EcoHealth Alliance leads cutting-edge scientific research into the critical connections between human and wildlife health and delicate ecosystems. With this science, we develop solutions that prevent pandemics and promote conservation.”
Headquartered in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of New York City, the organization has active projects in more than 30 countries worldwide. EcoHealth Alliance focuses on the emergence of disease as caused by deforestation and increased interaction between humans and wildlife in bio-diverse regions around the globe. Predicting and preventing emerging infectious zoonotic diseases is at the core of the organization’s work. EcoHealth Alliance does this through several programs tackling issues which face wildlife, human, and environmental health from different angles, with a staff of multi-disciplinary research scientists, including veterinarians, epidemiologists, ecologists, economists, data technologists, and anthropologists. The organization’s scientists' work is published more than 40 times per year in prominent scientific journals like Nature, The Lancet, and Science.
EcoHealth Alliance often works in an investigative capacity with foreign ministries, local scientists, universities, and other NGOs to identify and monitor novel and emergent diseases. The continual monitoring of known zoonotic diseases and the discovery of novel viruses assists in creating a vanguard to prevent new disease outbreaks. The organization has researched the emergence of diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, and Ebola virus, among others.
Working with policymakers in an advisory capacity, EcoHealth Alliance also offers ecosystem and public health expertise to different organizational and governmental bodies like the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The organization also works to raise awareness on the global wildlife trade, informing policy makers and organizations like the WHO on threats of disease and environmental damage posed by the global trade and distribution of illegal trade in wildlife.
EcoHealth Alliance recently announced its fifth consecutive 4-star rating on Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofits on financial performance, accountability, and transparency.
EcoHealth Alliance as it is today was formed by the merger of The Wildlife Trust and the Consortium for Conservation Medicine in 2010.
It was founded under the name Wildlife Preservation Trust International in 1971 by British naturalist, author, and television personality Gerald Durrell. It then became The Wildlife Trust in 1999. In the fall of 2010, the organization changed its name once again, this time to EcoHealth Alliance . The rebrand reflected a change in the organization’s focus, moving from solely a conservation nonprofit which focused mainly on the captive breeding of endangered species, to an environmental health organization with its foundation in conservation.
Scientists and collaborators from the organization coined the term ‘conservation medicine,’ and held the first professional conservation medicine meeting to define the field in 1996. They went on to organize and publish the first edited volume on the field through Oxford University Press in 2002—Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice.
In February 2008, EcoHealth Alliance published a paper in Nature entitled “Global trends in emerging infectious diseases” which featured the first rendition of a global disease hotspot map. Using epidemiological, social, and environmental data from the past 50 years, the map outlined regions of the globe most at risk for emergent disease threats.
EcoHealth Alliance partners with USAID on the PREDICT subset of USAID’s EPT (Emerging Pandemic Threats) program. PREDICT seeks to identify which emerging infectious diseases are of the greatest risk to human health. Many of EcoHealth Alliance’s international collaborations with in-country organizations and institutions fall under the PREDICT umbrella. Scientists in the field collect samples from local fauna in order to track the spread of potential harmful pathogens and to stop them from becoming outbreaks. Scientists also train local technicians and veterinarians in animal sampling and information gathering.
Active Countries: Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam
IDEEAL (Infectious Disease Emergence and Economics of Altered Landscapes Program) seeks to study the impact deforestation and land-use change have in Sabah, Malaysia in regards to increased risk of zoonoses. This work is centered in particular around the local palm oil industry. The project also suggests sustainable alternatives to large-scale deforestation to the country’s business leaders and it’s policy-makers. The program is based at the Development Health Research Unit (DHRU) in Malaysia, cofounded with the Malaysian University of Sabah.
Rift Valley Fever Virus
Rift Valley fever has been called “the next West Nile” and has already wreaked havoc on the livestock industry in sub-Saharan Africa where it is most prominent. EcoHealth Alliance is working in South Africa to better predict outbreaks by studying the impact of environment and human behavior in regards to the mosquito-spread virus. EcoHealth Alliance is also already at work with policymakers on a plan should RVFV spread to the United States.
A growing body of research indicates that bats are an important factor in both ecosystem health, and disease emergence. A number of hypotheses have been proposed for the high number of zoonoses that have come from bat populations in recent decades. One group of researchers hypothesized “that flight, a factor common to all bats but to no other mammals, provides an intensive selective force for coexistence with viral parasites through a daily cycle that elevates metabolism and body temperature analogous to the febrile response in other mammals. On an evolutionary scale, this host-virus interaction might have resulted in the large diversity of zoonotic viruses in bats, possibly through bat viruses adapting to be more tolerant of the fever response and less virulent to their natural hosts.” 
Project Deep Forrest
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly 18 million acres of forest are lost every year due to deforestation, an area roughly the size of Panama. Increased contact between humans and the animal species whose habitat is being destroyed has led to increases in zoonotic disease. EcoHealth Alliance scientists are testing species for pathogens in areas with very little, moderate, and complete deforestation in order to track potential outbreaks. This data is used to promote the preservation of natural lands and diminish the devastating effects of land-use change.
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