The Future Earth Health Knowledge-Action Network held its official launch event in Taipei City on 20 May 2019. The transition from the development phase to full operational phase was discussed and celebrated in a public launch ceremony. Under the guidance of the Health KAN Development Team co-chairs Prof. Anthony Capon and Prof. Kristie L Ebi, over ninety participants discussed how to solve the common health threats we are experiencing around the world in the face of issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and land-use change.
The Future Earth Health Knowledge-Action Network (Health KAN) under the support from Academia Sinica and the Future Earth secretariat planned a public symposium in which local, regional, and global stakeholders can participate and learn from each other. The day was opened by President James C. Liao (Academia Sinica). He emphasized the importance of the Future Earth Health Knowledge-Action Network because the planet is experiencing threats from climate change, environmental degradation, and the consequent effects on health. Deputy Minister Dar-Bin Shieh (Ministry of Science and Technology) expressed how environmental changes and pollution are threatening our lives and the need for more scientific solutions to solve these problems. Fumiko Kasuga (Future Earth Global Hub Director, Japan) shared that urgent and integrated action is needed for global sustainability. She mentioned how we need to think in a holistic matter about the environment and society because all of this impacts health. To achieve that, a systems approach to promote cross-cutting activities must be adapted. Director Kasuga also shared activities that Future Earth is supporting such as The Global Commons Alliance and Earth Commission.
The Health KAN Development Team co-chairs succeeded their roles from Professor Peter Daszak (President of the EcoHealth Alliance) and Professor Sir Andy Haines (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) in early 2018. At the symposium, they introduced how the challenges from this century are different than those of the previous century. Therefore, science must continue to develop in a way that can avoid unexpected consequences in light of the ever-changing challenges across borders (e.g. how to tackle plastic pollution, how to deal with it, and how to avoid impacting vulnerable population groups in other locations of the source of the pollution). Emeritus Professor Kari Raivio (University of Helsinki) discussed the formation and need for Future Earth and described the guiding principles of multidisciplinary and co-design practices. He also shared that the Knowledge-Action Networks were based on a strategic research agenda, of which Health was one of the challenges to tackle. Prof Raivio’s talk was followed up by a video message from former co-chair Professor Sir Andy Haines from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Next, two prominent local researchers, Professor Dr. Huey-Jen Su (National Cheng-Kung University) and Research Fellow Dr. Shih-Chun Lung (Research Center for Environmental Changes and Director at the Center for Sustainability Science Academia Sinica, who is also a member of the Health KAN Advisory Group) introduced local health-related issues, research activities, and how they tackled the issues using scientific findings in collaboration with researchers from different disciplines. They provided details on the dengue fever outbreak, rising concerns of airborne microbial hazards, heat-stress, and PM2.5 pollution.
Knowledge-Action Networks are designed to function as a collaborative framework that facilitates highly integrative sustainability research. The aim is to generate the multifaceted knowledge needed to inform solutions for complex societal issues. To clarify what this means in practice, Adjunct Researcher Dr. Mustapha Adetoun (Microbiology Department of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research) presented practical examples from Nigeria and other African countries. The Health KAN science officer Dr. Giles B. Sioen then guided the panel by raising thought-provoking questions about co-design processes and the realization of a science agenda. For this purpose, the interdisciplinary panel discussion was held on the needs and aims of having a proper representation of different sectors for the Health KAN. Members of the panel expressed their own challenges and the need to implement scientific knowledge in society. The panelists were Director Hein Mallee (Regional Centre for Future Earth in Asia), Professor Honda Yasushi (University of Tsukuba), Dr. Miki Nagashima (Malaria No More Japan), and Section Chief Ms Chien-Yuan Wu (Ministry of Health and Welfare), Director General Dr. Linyi Tsai (Department of Environmental Sanitation and Toxic Substance Management, Environmental Protection Administration). In addition to the panelists, the co-design processes were further discussed with inputs from a diverse audience. The panel was closed expressing the importance of taking on a transdisciplinary approach within the KAN.
The day was concluded by the closing remarks from the Chairman of Future Earth Taipei Professor Chao Han Liu (Academia Sinica).
Workshops and discussions
For the following three days (21-23 May 2019), over forty stakeholders, which included science experts, funders, representatives of various organizations, and policymakers met to frame the transdisciplinary research agenda to safeguard human, animal, and plant health into the future. To develop this agenda, several researchers pitched their ideas, opening discussions for what the agenda should contain. The participants brought their skills and knowledge together to set up a plan to improve collaboration across national boundaries and sectors. They also discussed the establishment of a strategy for action and implementation of research findings in society. To develop an implementation plan, they brainstormed and made stakeholder value networks focusing on health issues. Based on the discussions, some of the participants prepared a blog post titled: “Safeguarding our Planet, Safeguarding our Health” to share the ideas with a wider audience. Furthermore, the group agreed upon a governance structure and activities to facilitate the promotion and protection of human health in the face of changes in climate, environment, and socioeconomic factors.
It is the Health KAN’s mission to support and enable solution-driven transdisciplinary health research and to improve the understanding of the linkages between health and the environment. To achieve this aim, the Health KAN focuses on holistic solutions for planetary health and human well-being with all stakeholders. The formation of the Health KAN provides the global health community with an opportunity to make bold steps for collective action, to translate research into practical solutions, and to prepare for the health risks of global environmental change. You can read more about and contribute to the Health KAN mission by joining the Future Earth Open Network here.
The Health KAN Development Team is currently calling for nominations by 9 September 2019 to form a Steering Committee that will steer the broader Health community in terms of priorities, strategy, implementation, and outreach. Interested individuals are invited to (self-)nominate.
This event was made possible thanks to the generous support and hosting from Academia Sinica. In addition, the International Science Council supported five participants from Low- and middle-income countries. Organizational support was provided by the Future Earth Secretariat.