Renowned Medical Researcher and Co-Founder of the Ocean Human Health Research Program, Eric Dewailly died tragically in the Reunion Islands in June, 2014. He was an inspiration and visionary for the work of OHH and embraced the love of adventure synonymous with scientific exploration.
Eric recognized the immense value of traditional and local knowledge, forging strong relationships with his colleagues in indigenous communities. He had ‘an eye’ for the anomalies – the ‘curious data’ –and a rare gift to recognize the patterns among extended data sets.
Eric always applied the idea that connecting people’s health to the health of the environment (that what we do to the ocean we ultimately do to ourselves) created important leverage points in human decision-making. It is absolutely clear that human health impacts from pollution resonate more deeply (selfishly) than notions of environmental impacts. We all feel that this approach has an important role to play in reducing negative human behaviour that affects the environment.
Eric also avoided speaking only of the bad changes in the environment that were affecting people. He developed the risk/benefit paradigm that spoke not only about the risks of environmental pollution and the loss of health benefitting foods from the diet but also the benefits of clean environments and clean resources at a human cultural level; the health giving properties of traditional communities, the positive lifestyles that are built around activities such as fishing and traditional meal preparation. His "risk benefit” mantra was applicable to almost every problem.
The exposure of native people to industrial pollutants, which had nothing to do with their ways of life and made previously healthy country foods unavailable or unhealthy, deeply disturbed him.
Eric's work pulling together public health teams and native northern communities to analyse these risks and benefits made him a leader in the science and policy making that brought about significant shifts in the regulations concerning the creation and distribution of many environmental toxins.
The world owes a huge debt to Eric Dewailly.
We are all extremely proud to be able, in some small way, to continue and build on the work he led and inspired.”
He is deeply missed. Philippe Max Rouja