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Spotlight on Research: EWC’s Workshop on Combating Emerging Infectious Diseases Sparks New Ideas and Partnerships

More than 80 representatives from government agencies, universities, and international, non-governmental and philanthropic organizations gathered in Hanoi from September 12-13 to participate in the East-West Center-sponsored workshop on combating emerging infectious diseases (EID).

Focusing on avian influenza (AI, H5N1) and dengue fever, the participants explored a community-based ecosystem approach, examining the interaction of social and ecological factors that contribute to disease emergence.  Following panel presentations by leading researchers from the U.S. and Vietnam, brainstorming groups further examined an integrative social-ecological framework, looking at methods, data availability and quality for the two diseases, and institutional collaboration at the national, regional and international levels.  A hypothesis arose from the deliberations stating that disease emergence is related to habitat alteration, agricultural intensification, and urbanization stemming from the rapid rate of growth and change.

EWC Senior Fellow Jefferson Fox, reflecting on the impact of the meeting, stated: “The brainstorming groups helped us to identify key issues with regard to dengue and AI, and that a trans-disciplinary approach might provide new insights into people's perceptions of these diseases and how they respond to risk. The ideas and relationships formed in the workshop will be instrumental as we develop new approaches for research in this arena.”

EWC’s Director of Research Nancy Lewis added, “This workshop greatly solidified our institutional collaboration, so together we can further explore important social and ecological questions linked to emerging infectious diseases.  We’re planning to develop a place-based research model that will employ spatial analysis to address these questions, which will be useful beyond Vietnam and for other diseases in addition to AI and Dengue.”

The East-West Center, based in Honolulu, Hawaii, has been working with colleagues from the region investigating land-use and land-cover change in Southeast Asia for several decades. Recognizing that these changes are linked to disease emergence, the Center has partnered with the University of Hawaii’s Asia-Pacific Institute for Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease and its Globalization Research Center in an effort to advance EID research in Asia.  These partners have also been collaborating with the regional office of the International Association of Ecology and Health at Mahidol University, Thailand.

The institutions participating in this workshop brought together complementary expertise in finding ways to prevent and control EID in the region. Vietnam has been considered a “hot spot” for avian flu and has since proved successful in the controlling the epidemic.

EWC and Other Participating Organizations

Government agencies: Vietnam Ministry of Health, Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Vietnam’s National Veterinary Research Institute, Vietnam Department of Animal Health, Institute Pasteur, U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Center for Disease Control

Universities: University of Hawaii (Asia Pacific Institute of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease; Urban and Regional Planning; and The Globalization Research Center); Hanoi Agricultural University, Hanoi School of Public Health, Hue University, Medical University Hai Phong, Cantho University, Tay Nguyen University, Nong Lam Thu Duc University, University of Melbourne, Kyoto University, Mahidol University

International and non-government organizations: FAO, CARE

Donors: Ford Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies