, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 258–272 | Cite as

All Hands on Deck: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Emerging Infectious Disease

  • Margot W. ParkesEmail author
  • Leslie Bienen
  • Jaime Breilh
  • Lee-Nah Hsu
  • Marian McDonald
  • Jonathan A. Patz
  • Joshua P. Rosenthal
  • Mazrura Sahani
  • Adrian Sleigh
  • David Waltner-Toews
  • Annalee Yassi
Original Contributions


The increasing burden of emerging infectious diseases worldwide confronts us with numerous challenges, including the imperative to design research and responses that are commensurate to understanding the complex social and ecological contexts in which infectious diseases occur. A diverse group of scientists met in Hawaii in March 2005 to discuss the linked social and ecological contexts in which infectious diseases emerge. A subset of the meeting was a group that focused on “transdisciplinary approaches” to integrating knowledge across and beyond academic disciplines in order to improve prevention and control of emerging infections. This article is based on the discussions of that group. Here, we outline the epidemiological legacy that has dominated infectious disease research and control up until now, and introduce the role of new, transdisciplinary and systems-based approaches to emerging infectious diseases. We describe four cases of transboundary health issues and use them to discuss the potential benefits, as well as the inherent difficulties, in understanding the social–ecological contexts in which infectious diseases occur and of using transdisciplinary approaches to deal with them.


transdisciplinary social–ecological systems emerging infectious diseases HIV SARS Nipah virus 



Ideas for this article were developed during a working meeting on social–ecological systems and emerging infectious diseases, hosted by the Asia-Pacific Institute of Tropical Medicine & Infectious Diseases and the East-West Center (March 9–11, 2005), supported by NIH Research Grant #R13 TW007300, and funded by the Fogarty International Center and Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences under the NIH Roadmap initiative “Research Teams of the Future.” We acknowledge the efforts of the meeting organizers, and also those who have supported the writing of the article, including Elizabeth Sowatzke and Jeff Marks. Special thanks to Carolyn Annerud, John M. Kobayashi, Conor Kretsch, Heather McMillen, and Jean Lebel for their valuable contributions to the working group discussions.


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Copyright information

© EcoHealth Journal Consortium 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margot W. Parkes
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Leslie Bienen
    • 3
  • Jaime Breilh
    • 4
  • Lee-Nah Hsu
    • 5
  • Marian McDonald
    • 6
  • Jonathan A. Patz
    • 7
  • Joshua P. Rosenthal
    • 8
  • Mazrura Sahani
    • 9
  • Adrian Sleigh
    • 10
  • David Waltner-Toews
    • 11
  • Annalee Yassi
    • 12
  1. 1.Global Health Research ProgramUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Asia-Pacific Center for Infectious Disease Ecology, Asia-Pacific Institute of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease, John A. Burns School of MedicineUniversity of HawaiiHonolulu
  3. 3.Leslie BienenMissoula
  4. 4.Centro de Estudios y Asesoria en Salud (Health Research and Advisory Center)AsturiasEcuador
  5. 5.Health Systems Program, International Health DepartmentJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimore
  6. 6.Office of Minority and Women’s Health, National Center for Infectious DiseasesCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlanta
  7. 7.Global Environmental Health Program, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE)University of WisconsinMadison
  8. 8.Division of International Training and Research, Fogarty International CenterNational Institutes of HealthBethesda
  9. 9.Environmental Health Research CenterInstitute for Medical ResearchJalan PahangMalaysia
  10. 10.National Centre for Epidemiology and Population HealthAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  11. 11.Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary CollegeUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  12. 12.Institute of Health Promotion Research, Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, and Department of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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