CNH: Coupled Natural-Human Systems and Emerging Infectious Diseases

Previous research suggests that infectious disease outbreaks are associated with environmental changes such as urbanization, agricultural change, and natural habitat alterations that occur as societies evolve. Studying the role of societal development in disease transmission is urgent and critical for improving the prediction and control of disease. This project will examine how the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Vietnam varies across traditional settings (customary agricultural practices and housing), modern settings (agricultural modernization and industrial cities), and transitional settings (chaos of in-between). The objectives of this research are to: (1) test a model of relationships between human-caused environmental transformations and the emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases in Vietnam; (2) examine the influence of socio-ecological and socio-psychological variables on individuals' perceptions of and responses to the risk of HPAI in traditional, transitional, and modern communes; (3) integrate the research with education and training programs at the University of Hawaii, the East-West Center, and the Hanoi University of Agriculture in Vietnam; (4) establish new collaborations among scientists from multiple disciplines and among U.S. academic institutions, industry, government, and international partners from countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Because complexity is scale sensitive the project will collect and analyze data at national, commune, and household scales. The methods to be used include field observations, face-to-face interviews, geographical information systems, remote sensing, global positioning systems, and statistical tools.

The project has significant theoretical, methodological, and practical implications. Developing basic principles and methods for understanding the complex interactions within and among natural and human systems at multiple spatial scales will help to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the emergence of new and reemerging infectious diseases. The outputs will enhance the capabilities of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers at local, national, and regional levels. The work will provide useful insights for designing policies for preventing and managing infectious disease outbreaks in Vietnam and other developing nations. Several graduate students will be mentored and trained in this interdisciplinary research project.

Lead Investigator: