Environment, health and society. Like the three prongs of an electrical plug, these themes infused energy into the Ekosanté project for four full years. They guided our questions:
- how can society better integrate findings linking health and environment though policy (pathways to change)?
- how can we stimulate a new generation of researchers and practitioners to inquire into these links (learning and training)?
- and, finally, how can we sustain the energy invested into this line of scholarship and inquiry by members (network resilience and sustainability)?
The foundation of our methodology to answer these intertwined questions was a fellowship and award program for young scholars and professionals. These fellowships and awards acted as a gravitational force throughout the project, as they brought together ecohealth researchers in their role as mentors and advisers for their younger colleagues and inspired the organization and implementation of workshops and research projects.
There is a growing academic consensus that the issues we face as a society are complex. An electrical plug without one of the three prongs works for some time, but is much less secure. Eventually, there is a short circuit.
If we are to truthfully address the complex problems we face and generate lasting responses, policy must consider all three prongs. Using this three-tined approach we were able to secure advances in knowledge both at the level of our Collaboration as a whole and within the fellows’ projects.
For example, we now have a deeper understanding of the impact of supporting young scholars and professionals in policy and practice as well as how this has influenced individual’s practice; we have observed the benefit of integrated and culturally responsible interventions in Northern Canada and the sustainability of an integrated water management program when the participatory approach is grounded in a solid knowledge of the groups and actors involved.
In the metaphor of an electrical plug, the environmental component could be conceived of as the grounding factor; in our networks, likewise, a nodal structure allowed for sometimes distant and theoretical notions to be grounded in practice and place. The Ekosanté project resonated broadly across the Americas through a series of outreach activities featuring dialogue and sharing. This connectivity is being mapped in order to promote more connections and contribute to the networks’ resilience and sustainability.