I chair a session on New Directions in Health-Environment Research: Implications for Health Systems. A bit off the beam of the Global Symposium’s thrust: one of 13 concurrent sessions, perhaps 20 people attend.
Setting the stage, I describe the methodological challenges researchers are tackling to uncover how environmental change, of different kinds, is creating health risks; in identifying developmental processes that are loosening structures of risk and in clarifying how health and other sectors can collaborate to realize these opportunities.
The first case describes an “unnatural experiment”, the 2001-03 famine and its impact on the evolution of HIV in Malawi. Using existing data, I show how hunger profoundly affected the distribution of HIV and of people by pushing people into survival sex and distress migration. The data also show that hunger was less severe, maize price less volatile and migration and change in HIV prevalence less marked where people had access to robust crops like cassava, alongside the maize staple. Cassava appears to be providing a “prevention dividend”.