Forests, trees, and green spaces impact human health across all life stages and offer positive health outcomes that significantly outweigh negative ones.
Forest-health relations offer solutions to global crises.
Integrative and cross-sectoral approaches need to be adopted to improve forest-health linkages.
The Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) Programme of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) issued a report, which identifies the health benefits of forests. Titled, ‘Forests and Trees for Human Health: Pathways, Impacts, Challenges and Response Options,’ the report recognizes the linkages between human health, the health of other species, and the health of the planet as a whole, and argues they offer solutions to global crises.
The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary of the launch event highlights that “[f]orests, trees, and green spaces play a vital role in ensuring a healthy life for all on a global scale,” with the health benefits that range from physical and mental well-being to overall mortality reduction far outweighing the adverse effects on health.
Emphasizing the need for integrated approaches, reflected in the Global Biodiversity Framework and several SDGs, Christoph Wildburger, IUFRO-GFEP Programme Coordinator, said the report represents “the most comprehensive global assessment to date on the links between forests and human health.”
Cecil Konijnendijk, University of British Columbia and Chair of the Global Forest Expert Panel on Forests and Human Health, outlined the report’s five key messages:
- Forests, trees, and green spaces impact human health across all life stages.
- Positive health outcomes of forests, trees, and green spaces significantly outweigh negative ones.
- The health outcome of forests is the result of several pathways that are dependent on context and individual lifestyles.
- Forest-health relations offer solutions to global crises.
- Integrative and cross-sectoral approaches need to be adopted to improve forest-health linkages.
Matilda van den Bosch, Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Coordinating Lead Author, highlighted “global inequities regarding health outcomes and interactions with forests.” She identified environmental protection as “an inherent part of the solution to health,” and called attention to “the voices of Indigenous Peoples and local communities and the needs of future generations.”
Payam Dadvand, ISGlobal, Coordinating Lead Author, outlined the wide range of health benefits associated with forests and trees, including: neurodevelopment in children; mental health and wellbeing, spiritual well-being, and cardiometabolic health in adults; and mental health and wellbeing and longevity in the elderly.
Cristina Romanelli, Programme Officer, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Health, World Health Organization (WHO), “lauded the report for catalyzing collective knowledge to prevent disease and create health-promoting environments through inclusive approaches.” Noting opportunities offered by the One Health approach, she stressed the need for “policy coherence and collaboration between the health and natural resource sectors.”
The report was developed by an international and interdisciplinary team of scientists. The online launch took place on 21 March 2023, on the occasion of the International Day of Forests. [Publication: Forests and Trees for Human Health: Pathways, Impacts, Challenges and Response Options] [ENB Coverage of Launch Event]