Skip to main content

Ecohealth as a Field: Looking Forward


This forum paper proposes a reflection on the “field of ecohealth” and on how best to sustain a supportive environment that enables the evolution of diverse partnerships and forms of collaboration in the field. It is based on the results of a preconference workshop held in October 2012, in Kunming, China at the fourth biennial conference of the International Association for Ecology and Health. Attended by 105 persons from 38 countries, this workshop aimed to have a large-group and encompassing discussion about ecohealth as an emerging field, touching on subjects such as actors, processes, structures, standards, and resources. Notes taken were used to conduct a qualitative thematic analysis combined with a semantic network analysis. Commonalities highlighted by these discussions draw a portrait of a field in which human health, complex systems thinking, action, and ecosystem health are considered central issues. The need to reach outside of academia to government and the general public was identified as a shared goal. A disconnect between participants’ main concerns and what they perceived as the main concerns of funding agencies emerged as a primary roadblock for the future.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3


  1. 1.

     Detailed account of the regional discussions is available in the workshop report (Mallee et al. 2012).


  1. Berbés-Blázquez M, Oestreicher S, Mertens F, Saint-Charles J (in press) Ecohealth and resilience thinking: a dialogue from experiences in research and practice. Ecology & Society.

  2. Boischio, A., Sánchez, A., Orosz, Z., & Charron, D. (2009). Health and sustainable development: challenges and opportunities of ecosystem approaches in the prevention and control of dengue and Chagas disease. Cadernos de saúde pública, 25 Suppl 1, S149–154.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Borgatti, S. P., Everett, M. G., & Freeman, L. C. (2002). Ucinet for Windows: Software for Social Network Analysis. Harvard, MA: Analytic Technologies.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bunch M, McCarthy D, & Waltner-Toews D (2008). A family of origin for an ecosystem approach to managing for sustainability. In: Waltner-Toews D, Kay J, Lister N-M (eds). The Ecosystem Approach: Complexity, Uncertainty, and Managing for Sustainability. New York: Columbia Univ

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  5. Capra, F. (1983). The turning point: science, society, and the rising culture. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Charron DF (2012) Ecohealth research in practice innovative applications of an ecosystem approach to health. Ottawa/New York: International Development Research Centre/Springer.

  7. De Freitas, C. M., de Oliveira, S. G., Schütz, G. E., Freitas, M. B., & Camponovo, M. P. G. (2007). Ecosystem approaches and health in Latin America. Cadernos de saúde pública, 23(2), 283–296.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Diesner, J., & Carley, Kathleen. (2011). Semantic Networks. In G. A. Barnett (Ed.), Encyclopedia of social networks. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Hart MA (2010) Indigenous worldviews, knowledge, and research: the development of an Indigenous research paradigm.

  10. Hueston W, Appert J, Denny T, King L, Umber J, Valeri L (2013) Assessing global adoption of one health approaches. EcoHealth 10(3):228–233. doi:10.1007/s10393-013-0851-5.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Lang T, Rayner G (2012) Ecological public health: the 21st century’s big idea? An essay by Tim Lang and Geof Rayner. BMJ 345:e5466–e5466. doi:10.1136/bmj.e5466

  12. Leung, Z., Middleton, D., & Morrison, K. (2012). One Health and EcoHealth in Ontario: a qualitative study exploring how holistic and integrative approaches are shaping public health practice in Ontario. BMC Public Health, 12(1), 358. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-358

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Min, B., Allen-Scott, L. K., & Buntain, B. (2013). Transdisciplinary research for complex One Health issues: A scoping review of key concepts. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 112(3-4), 222–229. doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2013.09.010

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Mergler, D. 2003. Integrating human health into an ecosystem approach to mining. In Rapport, D.J.; Lasley, W.L.; Rolston, D.E.; Nielsen, N.O., Qualset, C.O. and Damania, A. B. (eds), Managing for Healthy Ecosystems, Lewis Publisher.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Nielsen, N. O. (2001). Ecosystem approaches to human health. Cadernos de saúde pública, 17 Suppl, 69–75.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Odora Hoppers, C. A. (Ed.). (2002). Indigenous knowledge and the integration of knowledge systems: towards a philosophy of articulation. Claremont, South Africa: New Africa Books.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Paillé P (1994).L’analyse par théorisation ancrée. Cahiers de recherche sociologique 23:147–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Parkes, M. W. (2012). Diversity, Emergence, Resilience: Guides for A New Generation of Ecohealth Research and Practice. EcoHealth, 8(2), 137–139. doi:10.1007/s10393-011-0732-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Raymond, C. M., Fazey, I., Reed, M. S., Stringer, L. C., Robinson, G. M., & Evely, A. C. (2010). Integrating local and scientific knowledge for environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management, 91(8), 1766–1777. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2010.03.023

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Rayner, G., & Lang, T. (2012). Ecological public health: reshaping the conditions for good health. Abingdon; New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Rittel, H. W. J., & Webber, M. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155–169. doi:10.1007/BF01405730

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Brown VA, Harris JA, Russell JY (2010) Tackling wicked problems through the transdisciplinary imagination. Washington, DC: Earthscan

    Google Scholar 

  23. Turnpenny, J., Lorenzoni, I., & Jones, M. (2009). Noisy and definitely not normal: responding to wicked issues in the environment, energy and health. Environmental Science & Policy, 12(3), 347–358. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2009.01.004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Waltner-Toews, D., Kay, J. J., & Lister, N.-M. E. (2008). The ecosystem approach: Complexity, uncertainty, and managing for sustainability. Columbia University Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Webb, J. C., Mergler, D., Parkes, M. W., Saint-Charles, J., Spiegel, J., Waltner-Toews, D., … Woollard, R. F. (2010). Tools for Thoughtful Action: The Role of Ecosystem Approaches to Health in Enhancing Public Health. Revue canadienne de santé publique, 101(6), 439–441.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Webb J, Saint-Charles J, Sanchez A (2013) Field-Building Pre-Conference Workshop Report. Cinbiose, CoPEH, Canada.

  27. Mallee H, Nguyen-Viet H, Saint-Charles J, Sanchez A, van Wendel de Joode B, Webb J (2012) Discussion Paper: Ecohealth Field-building. Cinbiose, CoPEH, IDRC Canada.

  28. Weihs, M., & Mertens, F. (2013). [Challenges for knowledge generation in environmental health: an ecosystemic approach]. Ciência & saúde coletiva, 18(5), 1501–1510.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Wesselink, A., & Hoppe, R. (2010). If Post-Normal Science is the Solution, What is the Problem?: The Politics of Activist Environmental Science. Science, Technology & Human Values, 36(3), 389–412. doi:10.1177/0162243910385786

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Wilcox, B. A., Aguirre, A. A., Daszak, P., Horwitz, P., Howard, J., Lannigan, R., … Waltner Toews, D. (2004). Introduction. EcoHealth, 1(1), 1–2. doi:10.1007/s10393-004-0011-z

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Wilcox, B. A., Aguirre, A. A., Daszak, P., Horwitz, P., Martens, P., Parkes, M., … Waltner-Toews, D. (2004b). EcoHealth: A Transdisciplinary Imperative for a Sustainable Future. EcoHealth, 1(1), 3–5. doi:10.1007/s10393-004-0014-9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Wilcox, B., & Kueffer, C. (2008). Transdisciplinarity in EcoHealth: Status and Future Prospects. EcoHealth, 5(1), 1–3. doi:10.1007/s10393-008-0161-5

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Zinsstag, J. (2013). Convergence of Ecohealth and One Health. EcoHealth, 9(4), 371–373. doi:10.1007/s10393-013-0812-z

    PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Zinsstag, J., Mackenzie, J. S., Jeggo, M., Heymann, D. L., Patz, J. A., & Daszak, P. (2012). Mainstreaming One Health. EcoHealth, 9(2), 107–110. doi:10.1007/s10393-012-0772-8

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors wish to thank the International Development Research Center of Canada for financial support for the organization of the workshop.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Johanne Saint-Charles.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Saint-Charles, J., Webb, J., Sanchez, A. et al. Ecohealth as a Field: Looking Forward. EcoHealth 11, 300–307 (2014).

Download citation


  • ecohealth
  • field building
  • future