Surfaces: An interdisciplinary project to understand and enhance health in the vulnerable rainforests of Papua New Guinea

Middleton, Jo, Cassell, Jackie, Novotny, Vojtech, Colthart, Gavin, Peck, Mika, Fairhead, James, Walker, Stephen L., Head, Michael G., Macgregor, Hayley, Inacio, Joao and Stewart, Alan (2017) Surfaces: An interdisciplinary project to understand and enhance health in the vulnerable rainforests of Papua New Guinea. In: Inaugural Planetary Health / GeoHealth Annual Meeting, 28-30 April 2017, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.

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New Guinea has the third largest tropical rainforest on Earth. However, one quarter of the forests of Papua New Guinea (PNG, New Guinea’s eastern half) have been cleared or degraded, nearly half through commercial logging.Sustainable development requires supporting good health (Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] 3) and protecting life on land (SDG 15). To remote communities in PNG with low levels of health provision, these goals can seem in conflict. Logging companies’ offer of roads and income can partly extinguish the remoteness that bars access to health services, making desire for health a driver for forest destruction and erosion of health related ecosystem services. Conservation success thus requires synergies be developed with delivery of other SDGs, particularly those pertaining to health. We aim to provide a model of integrated health and conservation in PNGs rainforests.

We are mapping and piloting biological, anthropological, and medical methods to address SDGs on health and biodiversity, focusing first on scabies and fungal diseases. At Wanang, team members have a long term collaboration with nine clans with unmet health needs who collectively chose to preserve their 10,000 hectare forest whilst surrounding communities allowed logging. Similar collaborations are being developed along an altitudinal transect on Mt.Wilheim (4,509m). Stage 1 of Surfaces will (i) systematically map evidence on integrated conservation and health programmes, (ii) conduct clinical examinations and rapid anthropological assessments to understand medical needs, and survey skin disease, and (iii) produce a case study of the Wanang agreement, based on interviews with participants. This will lay the foundation for a multi-year health intervention and interdisciplinary study.

We are in the projects’ early stages (so do not yet have findings), and would appreciate advice and suggestions of collaboration from others in the Planetary Health community.

Sussex Sustainability Research Programme, University of Sussex, UK.

All authors have commented on multiple drafts and approved the final version of the abstract for publication.

Conflicts of interest
We declare we have no conflicts of interest.

We thank the projects partner communities; New Guinea Binatang Research Centre; and our advisory group.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Keywords: Planetary Health, Papua New Guinea, conservation, public health, neglected tropical diseases, scabies, Wanang,
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Primary Care and Public Health
School of Global Studies > Anthropology
School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Institute of Development Studies
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN397 Applied anthropology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0001 Natural history (General) > QH0075 Nature conservation
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine > RA0771 Rural health and hygiene. Rural health services
R Medicine > RL Dermatology
R Medicine > RL Dermatology > RL0760 Diseases due to parasites
Depositing User: Jo Middleton
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2017 08:31
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2018 09:02

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Surfaces: an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and enhancing health in a vulnerable rainforest settingUnsetSussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP), University of SussexUnset