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The Rockefeller Foundation Announces $2 Million Grant for New Effort to Improve Public Health and Ecosystem Integrity

Today, The Rockefeller Foundation announced a $2 million grant to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society in support of the Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages (HEAL) initiative. This grant will support two of HEAL’s five core modules enabling the Wildlife Conservation Society and its partners to conduct work in Southeast Asia and Madagascar that examines the relationships between conserved ecosystems and several dimensions of public health. The two modules will be led by Dr. Samuel Myers of the Harvard School of Public Health. The Rockefeller Foundation is pleased to be joining the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has also provided significant core support to help HEAL get underway.

The first module will allow researchers at Harvard University, Columbia University, and the World Wildlife Fund to quantify the human health impacts of fires used for land clearing in equatorial Asia, while the second will quantify nutritional impacts of dwindling access to both marine and terrestrial wildlife populations currently being depleted by unsustainable harvesting practices in Madagascar. The long-term goal of the Wildlife Conservation Society-led HEAL consortium, a robust mix of more than 25 public health, environmental conservation, and other organizations and agencies, is to increase support for integrated public health and environmental conservation initiatives as intimately related, interdependent challenges.

“The Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages initiative underscores our passionate belief in an approach to environmental stewardship that fosters resilient, sustainable livelihoods,” said Dr. Cristián Samper, CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“This is exactly the kind of applied research we need to begin to understand the incremental human health benefits natural systems may be providing to humanity. The HEAL initiative will help us better understand a range of critical conservation-public health connections and as importantly- help inform both conservation and public health policy. I really have to commend both the Rockefeller and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations for having the vision to support a new yet long overdue interdisciplinary field of endeavor so important to our collective future,” Dr. Samper added.

“People’s well-being depends on the environment. The unmanaged consumption of resources, destruction of habitats, and far-reaching effects of pollution are straining people’s ability to live productive and healthy lives, particularly the world’s poor and vulnerable,” said Dr. Zia Khan, vice president of strategy and evaluation at The Rockefeller Foundation. “As we seek new cross-disciplinary approaches to preserving the fundamental resilience of our planet and the world’s most vulnerable populations, The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support the Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages initiative.”

The HEAL program modules have been designed to evaluate what appear to be key linkages at the interface between health and the environment, including the relationships between:

  • subsistence hunters’ sustainable access to wildlife and children’s nutritional needs (especially in the first thousand days for cognitive and physical development);
  • upland deforestation and erosion on islands like Fiji and waterborne diarrheal diseases such as typhoid in children, and downstream coral reef health and productivity;
  • deforestation patterns and malaria in the Amazon and other major forest systems;
  • fires in Sumatra and smoke-related cardiopulmonary illness in the broader downwind Southeast Asian “healthshed”; and
  • community access to marine protected areas, food security, income to purchase health services, and the psychological dimensions of having a “sense of place” related to secure coastal resource tenure.

HEAL represents the first rigorous attempt to systematically measure the human health impacts of changes in the state of a range of natural systems. Such an effort is an important step not only in building our scientific understanding, but also in allowing us to make rational policy and resource management decisions that incorporate both important environmental and human health outcomes.

“HEAL is the first initiative of its kind to systematically explore at a fine scale the functional relationships between the state of specific natural systems and different dimensions of human health. In order to inform policy and natural resource management decisions in the real world, we need to understand, and be able to quantify, how a particular change in a natural system is likely to impact a specific dimension of human health. Only in this way can we introduce human health into the cost-benefit analyses of resource management decisions- an ability humanity needs now more than ever in our history,” said Dr. Samuel Myers, Harvard Principal Investigator leading the two research modules being funded by this grant.

For additional details regarding the Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages (HEAL) initiative, please see

About The Wildlife Conservation Society
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit:

About The Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE)
The Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) encourages research and education about the environment and its many interactions with human society. The most pressing problems facing our natural environment are complex, often requiring collaborative investigation by scholars versed in different disciplines. By connecting scholars and practitioners from different disciplines, the Center for the Environment seeks to raise the quality of environmental research at Harvard and beyond.

About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation aims to achieve equitable growth by expanding opportunity for more people in more places worldwide, and to build resilience by helping them prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. Throughout its 100 year history, The Rockefeller Foundation has enhanced the impact of innovative thinkers and actors working to change the world by providing the resources, networks, convening power, and technologies to move them from idea to impact. In today’s dynamic and interconnected world, The Rockefeller Foundation has a unique ability to address the emerging challenges facing humankind through innovation, intervention and influence in order to shape agendas and inform decision making. Please visit for more information.

Media Inquiries: 
Laura Gordon, The Rockefeller Foundation, 212-852-8216,