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Event The natural relation between Biodiversity and Public Health

2011 Belgian Biodiversity - Public Health Conference

The conference aims to raise scientific and policy attention for the relation between Biodiversity and Public Health in Belgium, to stimulate networking amongst experts and to discuss how we can improve the knowledge base on the issue. The conference wants to contribute to building a Belgian Community of Expertise and Practice working on these challenging topics. After the conference in 2012 we want to organize a state of the art review of Biodiversity and Public Health related scientific knowledge and expertise in Belgium, assessing the knowledge gaps, the potentialities and the main challenges. We also want to assess these challenges from a policy perspective: which research and policy issues are of priority importance in the face of the potential that Biodiversity has for Public Health.

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Period 30/11/2011
Event location Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) Avenue Louise 231 Louizalaan B-1050 Brussels
Host Belgian Biodiversity Platform, BELSPO
Contact person Hans Keune

The natural relation between Biodiversity and Public Health

Human population health should be the central criterion, and is the best long-term indicator, of how we are managing the natural environment.” according to McMichael (2009). The 2001 - 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) had the ambition to enhance the protection of ecosystems by linking ecosystem well being to human well being. The MEA, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, dedicated a full report to the relation between ecosystems/biodiversity and human health. Public health can be considered an important issue not only from the perspective of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services but also often triggers quite some policy and public attention: public health is often high on the political agenda. In this context, the Belgian Biodiversity Platform is organising its annual conference on Biodiversity - Public Health on Wednesday the 30th of November 2011 in Brussels. The event will involve both Belgian and international experts and speakers.

Biodiversity and Public Health probably are more closely related than many people are aware of, and are so in many different ways… As such, the broader topic of Biodiversity and Public Health displays quite some diversity itself. Biodiversity is important for:

  • Control of infectious diseases, such as (in Europe) the Hantavirus, Lyme disease, Leishmaniasis.
  • Catastrophe control, such as floods, droughts, climate change.
  • Invasive species and diseases.
  • Quality of food, air and water.
  • Medicine (both traditional and modern) and biotechnology.
  • Nature experience: both socially, culturally and spiritually.

All of these biodiversity attributes can be considered ecosystem services beneficial to public health.

Furthermore the broader topic of Biodiversity and Public Health displays quite some diversity in challenges:

  • First of all the relation between Biodiversity and Public Health is characterized by huge scientific complexity: there are many known unknowns and probably quite some unknown unknowns that are in need of better scientific understanding.
  • Second social complexity: making scientific knowledge applicable to policy action demands quite a lot of the interface between science and policy. Dealing with complex but socially important issues challenges science and policy if we want to deal with these issues pragmatically in due course. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will have to take up this gauntlet. And so will Belgium.

General aim of the conference:

  • Research on the linkages between biodiversity and public health is an emerging issue of topical interest that nevertheless has not received much concerted attention in Belgium to date. Considering that the issue attracts the interest of various scientific disciplines, including biodiversity, public health and social sciences, an interdisciplinary approach is called for. Promoting new linkages and collaboration amongst these disciplines, to propose appropriate new research ideas and topics is of priority interest.
  • The expertise arising from such interdisciplinary research potentially has substantial added value for policy making. To promote the integration of such expertise into relevant policy at different levels, a transdisciplinary approach is called for to ascertain the involvement of relevant stakeholders from different sectors of society in the development of a research agenda and projects.

Target audience:

  • Scientists: including a wide diversity of relevant forms of expertise, both natural and social scientific; both senior experts and junior experts (e.g. PhD students)
  • Policy makers: federal, regional, local, EU

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