The purpose of this review is to describe the growing consensus regarding the contribution of natural processes – ‘nature’ – to human health. Globally, natural environments are becoming smaller and critically degraded because of various human-related factors. Consequently, some of the ‘free’ health benefits nature confers are being lost. This is especially problematic for people in rural areas with limited access to clinical services whose lives depend closely upon nature. The “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment” explored ecosystem changes and their subsequent effects on human well-being, including health. Global Burden of Disease studies have also revealed the importance of environmental factors to health. Not coincidentally, geographic areas in the two research efforts overlap, but convincing research describing how conserving healthy environments may positively affect human health remains lacking. Establishing ecosystem-human health causal linkages via traditional epidemiological approaches is challenging. Innovative research initiatives are increasing our understanding and appreciation of nature’s role as a provider of health, rendering conservation potentially a healthcare strategy. Transdisciplinary university teaching is also playing a role in broadening the awareness of these important linkages and developing research skills to meet the challenge.
Source: Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology