Healthcare to Heal the Planet: A One Health Proof-of-Concept in Borneo Positioned for Replication
An innovative and transformative One Health or Planetary Health initiative in Indonesian Borneo (https://healthinharmony.org/), advanced by veterinarians and physicians, provides a 10-yr proof-of-concept well positioned for replication globally. The planetary health concept advocates an interdisciplinary approach to reverse man’s unprecedented degradation of the environment, including deforestation and biodiversity loss, as a requisite to further advance human and environmental health globally.1 When asked, communities totalling 60,000 villagers surrounding 269,000 acres, Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan identified two solutions to stop illegal logging of rainforest if only they had the resources. If provided with training in alternative livelihoods and access to affordable healthcare, they could cease all illegal logging, a livelihood destroying habitat of 2,500 of the world’s last orangutans. Veterinarians from Rochester, NY and Kingston, Ontario mentored villager training in smallholder goat husbandry and production. Farmers, recruited from neighboring Java, trained the loggers in compost production and sustainable, organic farming of barren slash and burn plots. Physicians from Yale, Stanford and Rochester set in motion a mentoring program for recently graduated Indonesian physicians in a new rainforest clinic analogous to residency training programs in North American teaching hospitals. The ensuing, high quality and incentivized community health care program administered by Indonesian physicians provides 70% subsidy for patients from non-logging villages. Non-cash payments with manure, compost, organic produce, reforestation seedlings and handicrafts ensure no patient is turned away. The 10-yr metrics of program impact on community and forest health include a stunning 90% decrease in mortality of children under 5 yr of age and an 88% decrease in illegal logging households. Program replication is underway deeper in Borneo in villages adjacent to Bukit Baka Bukit Raya rainforest, twice the size of Gunung Palung, with plans to expand next year in Madagascar. Our proof-of-concept benefiting both human and environmental health illuminates a pathway for planetary health.
1. Whitmee S, Haines A, Beyrer C, Boltz F, Capon AG, de Souza Dias BF, Ezeh A, Frumkin H, Gong P, Head P, Horton R, Mace GM, Marten R, Myers SS, Nishtar S, Osofsky SA, Pattanayak SK, Pongsiri MJ, Romanelli C, Soucat A, Vega J, Yach D. Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch: report of The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health. Lancet. 2015;386:1973–2028.