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The Canary Database
Center for One Health Research
University of Washington

Project History

The Canary Database project is a result of collaboration between human health and animal health professionals to explore the linkages between animal disease events and human environmental health risks.

The project began in 2000, in response to a number of developments, including a 1991 National Academy of Sciences report recommending the use of animal sentinel data for human environmental risk assessment, reports of "endocrine disruption" in wildlife populations possibly due to chemical exposures, and the outbreak of West Nile Virus in the Western Hemisphere showing the relationship between wild bird mortality and human risk.

These developments pointed out the need for greater communication between human health professionals and animal health experts. Discussions between the Yale Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program, a veterinarian also trained in public health, and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center led to a pilot effort to search the biomedical literature and find evidence of successful animal sentinel models (see Rabinowitz PM, Cullen MR, Lake HR. 1999. "Wildlife as sentinels for human health hazards: A review of study designs." J Environ Med 1:217-23). As useful studies were located, they were added to a database and to be made available to the scientific community. Staff from the Yale Center for Medical Informatics helped with the creation of the website and database structure. A systematic review of the medical literature highlighted the need for an evidence-based approach to animal sentinel data.

With support from the National Library of Medicine's Information System Grant program in 2003, the project has been able to expand and accelerate activities, thanks to work by veterinarians, librarians, public health professionals and students, and many others. A national advisory board has guided the efforts, including a recent strategic planning meeting in June, 2005. The project has been presented at local, regional and national meetings. Current activities include evidence-based reviews of animals as sentinels of biological and chemical terrorism agents.

For more information about the people behind the Canary Database, see the Project Team page.

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