Institutional news 2 February 2024
Health ecology: a new agreement between Montpellier City and Metropolitan Councils and research organizations
Michaël DELAFOSSE, Mayor of Montpellier, Chair of Montpellier Méditerranée Metropolitan Council; Florence BRAU, Vice-Chair of Montpellier Méditerranée Metropolitan Council in charge of Health, Research and Higher Education; Stéphane JOUAULT, Deputy Mayor of Montpellier in charge of Nature in the City and of Biodiversity; Élisabeth CLAVERIE DE SAINT-MARTIN, CEO of CIRAD; Vincent FABRE-ROUSSEAU, CIRAD Regional Director for Montpellier-Occitanie; Pierre LEMONDE, Assistant Deputy CEO for Science, CNRS; Florence MORINEAU, Occitanie Regional Delegate, IRD; Philippe AUGÉ, Chancellor, University of Montpellier; Renan TARGHETTA, Head of Research and Innovation, Montpellier University Hospital; Sylvain LABBÉ, President, INRAE Occitanie-Montpellier Centre; Jacques CAVAILLÉ, Occitanie-Mediterranean Regional Delegate, INSERM; Jean-Michel VERDIER, President, EPHE-PSL; and Christophe MORGO, President, EID Méditerranée, have signed an unprecedented partnership agreement covering Health Ecology.
A seven-year agreement to steer public policy
This framework partnership agreement is due to run for seven years, to echo the objectives set out in the "France 2030" major investment and change plan, and includes the founding of a consortium for debate, action and research on topics of shared interest, to steer public policy and strengthen local authorities' health and environment policies.
Nine lines of cooperation
The agreement hinges on nine lines of cooperation:
- Speeding up the transfer of research into the exposome to understand and prevent diseases linked to environmental damage
- Studying the ecological resilience of ecosystems to better understand and prevent environmental impoverishment and the factors behind the emergence of infectious and zoonotic diseases
- Monitoring the ecology and evolution of hosts and reservoirs of both vectors and pathogens, to assess the risks and draft prevention, monitoring and control strategies,
- Assessing the links between management, design and planning practices in terms of the (re)vegetation of towns and cities or the changes in periurban agroecological practices and vector risks,
- Testing new tools and strategies to support a move towards sustainable, integrated management of vectors and vector risks on a territory level,
- Assessing, monitoring and preventing the health impacts of species likely to cause damage, non-indigenous species, invasive exotic species and plant pathogens using environmentally friendly methods,
- Inventorying, using and sharing tools to raise awareness across the entire range of stakeholders and audiences, to improve perceptions of environmental health and the prevention of risks linked to the environment and biodiversity depletion,
- Boosting the contribution of social sciences to environmental health within open science and participatory science research projects and in association with living laboratory initiatives inviting citizens, inhabitants and users to play an active role in research, innovation and changing practices,
- Proposing practical steps to Montpellier City and Metropolitan Councils regarding changes to the legal frameworks governing urbanization, citizenship and urban environment management.
Michaël DELAFOSSE, Mayor of Montpellier and Chair of Montpellier Méditerranée Metropolitan Council, stresses: "Since the Covid-19 crisis, the need for integrated health approaches is unquestionable. Montpellier is a city with a long scientific tradition. The MEDVALLÉE strategy rolled out over the past two years across our area, consisting in federating each and every science, research and innovation player around the intersection between our region's sectors of excellence - Health, Environment and Food, and Agronomy and Agriculture - to "Nourish-Care-Protect" better is intended to make Montpellier a global centre of excellence and co-construct a city that sets the example in terms of One Health. Our scientific community includes eminent health ecology specialists, who have made the One Health approach a reality in the countries of the global South. Global warming, biodiversity collapse, the transfer and introduction of new species, new emerging disease vectors, and so on... the 21st century has brought a range of challenges. Some of those challenges are manmade, and it is up to us to take our collective responsibilities to tackle them and build more collective intelligence".
I am delighted that Montpellier City and Metropolitan Councils are behind this new consortium, an unprecedented vessel for collective debate on health ecology and for adapting public policy."
In the run-up to the 4th regional environmental health plan to be launched by the Occitanie Regional Council, Montpellier City and Metropolitan Councils intend to build synergies between players in the region working for human and animal health and conservation.
According to the WHO, the environment if the key to better health. On a local level, anticipating, preventing and preparing for public health emergencies, against the current backdrop of climate change and increasing globalization, means strengthening the interactions between science and decision making.
"For CIRAD, this signing is hugely important", says its CEO Elisabeth Claverie de Saint Martin. "Our remit to focus on tropical agriculture really comes into its own in this context. What we have been studying for years in the global South is now coming to light in the North. We can therefore provide our knowledge of the risks, and our long history of working with partners in both South and North. Above and beyond CIRAD, this agreement is proof of the ambition of both Montpellier and the organizations present today to act as leaders on One Health issues. With this approach, we need to broaden our outlook and look beyond previous approaches, centred on humans. What we are calling for with this agreement is the ability to assess health risks more effectively by looking at the environment as a whole."
This partnership agreement fits into an integrated health approach that means players involved in monitoring, public policy and the research sector sharing their knowledge and expertise and avoiding working in silos. This approach is vital on both a local and a global scale, to identify emerging diseases and respond more effectively.
A concrete example: dengue fever in mainland France
This viral infection is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes and is common in tropical and sub-tropical climates, but the first indigenous case was seen in mainland France in 2010. In 2022, 66 indigenous cases of dengue fever transmission were recorded, "indigenous" meaning that the affected person had not travelled into the contaminated zone from elsewhere. Those 66 cases in a single year were more than double the total number recorded over the 12 years since 2010.
The signatories of this unprecedented agreement
The signing comes under the umbrella of the MEDVALLÉE strategy.