‘Conservation is good for human health’ was a central message at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, November 2014. This builds on the advice of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the Convention of Biodiversity Aichi Targets. Healthy wildlife - both as a consequence and a driver of healthy ecosystems and of healthy people was an awkward poor cousin in the overall discussion of Health and Well Being, and of the ‘Healthy Parks-Healthy People’ campaign at the Congress. Rates of type 2 diabetes, obesity, some cancers, depression - all rising global epidemics in an increasingly urban human population- can be reduced with increased physical exercise and contact with nature. However these outcomes do not require a healthy park or well functioning ecosystems to be realised. Pursuit of these goals, alone, could mismanage ecosystems, not only causing ecological degradation but in some cases facilitating infectious disease transmission. Engaging the conservation-health debate in the thick of human activity (i.e. beyond protected areas) is essential to avoid distancing issues and sidelining public concern.
In an era when action to address the global biodiversity crisis is critical and conservation is appealing to human health for support, wildlife disease researchers need to be able to contribute digestible complexity to this debate. The co-benefits of wildlife health to human and ecosystem health need to be better researched and articulated and research must be accessible to the agents of change. In this presentation we will use examples from Australasia to look at the type of evidence we have, the policy framework in which it can be considered and the mechanisms of translation. We will also frame conservation as a decisive 21st century public health campaign and consider the current progress and hurdles against those of previous major public health campaigns.