Global Change and Human Health

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 108-117

Death, Disease and Deformity; Using Outbreaks in Animals as Sentinels for Emerging Environmental Health Risks

  • Craig StephenAffiliated withCentre for Coastal Health
  • , Carl RibbleAffiliated withCentre for Coastal HealthDepartment of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College

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In "Airs, Waters and Places, " Hippocrates taught aspiring physicians that, to understand their patient's illness, they needed to understand their patient's environment. He recognized that people's well-being was linked to their environment. Hippocrates instructed his readers to use observations of the seasons, the water and the orientation of a city to classify the major health problems of the inhabitants. While his causal framework for explaining the pathogenesis of disease may seem rudimentary and misguided in light of today's medical understanding, Hippocrates knew that many health problems arose from our interactions with the environment and he tried to do what we continue to want to do today: to predict the occurrence of disease in order to better care for his patients.