University of Guelph to Host an Intensive Graduate Course in the Emerging Field of Ecohealth

Collaboratively designed and intensive graduate course traverses disciplines to explore Ecosystem Approaches to Health.

GUELPH, ON, July 6 – Internationally renowned researchers from disciplines spanning family medicine, veterinary medicine, sociology, philosophy, political science, and geography, are coming together at the University of Guelph to collaboratively teach an 11 day intensive course in Ecosystem Approaches to Health. This course explores health as the complex interactions between humans, animals and environments as well as social, economic, and environmental practices. The focus is an integrative approach to health which grapples with complex systems, through a combination of in-class theory and an unfolding field-based case-study.Failure of classical discipline-based approaches to health, environment and development the world over, especially in the face of such mammoth challenges as climate change and zoonotic pandemics has led to a growing demand for Ecohealth research, education and practice. The response, by a team of Canadian researchers from three universities (University of Guelph, University of British Columbia, Université du Québec à Montréal) is the development and delivery of a course in Ecosystem Approaches to Health. The team is developing this course so that it will eventually be able to be taught by others, in global contexts.

“Ecohealth has developed in response to the recognition that human health and well-being is embedded within the health of the ecosystem,” said Prof. Bruce Hunter of the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph.

U of G members of the course design team are Professors David Waltner-Toews, Population Medicine, Bruce Hunter, Pathobiology, Karen Houle, Philosophy, Cheryl Massey, Coordinator, and Suzanne McCullagh, Project Facilitator. After a competitive application process, twenty graduate students and five career practitioners were selected to participate.

This course is one of the initiatives of the Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health (CoPEH-Canada). CoPEH-Canada is a research project funded by the cutting edge institute known as the International Development Research Centre, which aims to develop skills, knowledge and capacity in ecosystem approaches to health by way of events, networks, publications, and training programs. This year’s course is the second in a series of three courses. The inaugural course took place last summer at UBC, and next year the course will be held at UQUAM. The goal, after the three years, is turn the short course into an accredited graduate course.

“New global problems require new ways of thinking and doing,” says Waltner-Toews, “but how can such new approaches find homes in academic and public institutions built to respond to very different challenges?” A first step is to design and roll out holistic, collaborative graduate-level courses. While the course doesn’t deliver a set of answers, or a ready-made paradigm, it includes and enacts all the critical features of a ‘new way of thinking and doing” especially gender and power analyses, sustainability, systems theory, and multiple epistemologies. Houle says, “If you have a paradigm already, you don’t have a complex problem, you have a complicated one”.

Two lectures from this course will be open to the public:

Dawn Martin-Hill, will speak about Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, Tuesday, July 7th, at 8pm, Belwood Hall, Belwood, ON. Dr. Hill, Mohawk, Wolf Clan, PhD in Cultural Anthropology is a founder and Academic Director of the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University. A mother of four children, ages six to twenty three, she resides at the Six Nations of the Grand River. Currently Dawn is interested in developing a curriculum with recognition of Aboriginal thought. Her research interests include Indigenous Knowledge and Aboriginal women, spirituality and Indigenous medicine, the contemporary practice of Indigenous traditionalism and global cross-cultural comparisons of Indigenous People

David C. Hall will speak about Agriculture and Animal Disease, as part of the Café Scientifique public lecture series at the Bookshelf eBar at 7pm on Thursday, July 16th. Dr. Hall has a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Guelph and a PhD in agricultural economics from Texas A&M, focusing on risk and production. He has worked in mixed animal practice in Canada and internationally with much of his work related to animal production, economics, and policy, particularly bovine (dairy and beef) and more recently poultry systems. According to Hall, “Combatting newly emerging infectious diseases continues to require more integrated approaches to health management, not only at the level of agricultural resources but also at the level of institutional co-operation. Avian influenza in Asia serves as an example but the lessons are important for other diseases and countries.”

About CoPEH Canada:

Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health-Canada (CoPEH-Canada) functions as a collaborative network to consolidate and expand the field of Ecosystem Approaches to Health through short-courses, research and activities that are open to interested researchers and the public.

For further information: Bruce Hunter, Phone: (519) 824-6120
x54625/54236, Email:

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