This month’s newsletter’s theme, ‘Improving HEALTH and WELL-BEING’, invokes many inspiring places. All protected areas are truly inspiring when one considers the huge contribution they make in so many ways to human health and well-being, through the provision of oxygen, clean water, food and medicinal plants, bioprospecting, disaster risk reduction, and health care by providing safe, clean and beautiful environments for people to walk and move in. Protected areas and the biodiversity they conserve are also crucial to help address climate change.
Many places and cultures around the world have centuries-old traditions linking health to nature, while some countries are re-discovering the power of nature on health and well-being. Here are a few examples: Austria: In the Hohe Tauern National Park, the largest protected area in the Alps, the Krimml waterfall aerosol is proven to have positive health effects on the human immunology and physiology, particularly for asthma and allergy sufferers. Japan and Korea: Shinrin-yoku is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. USA: As part of the US National Park Service’s Healthy Parks Healthy People programme, doctors prescribe time in nature for their patients, to treat and prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression and high blood pressure. Indigenous land, Indigenous medicine To preserve and protect indigenous medicine in the Amazon, Matsé shamans receive support to teach and impart the knowledge of the rainforest to younger generations of Matsés as well as to document and preserve, in their own language, their use of medicinal plants for the benefit of future generations. The city and urbanisation In an ever-increasing urbanising world - over half of the world’s population currently lives in cities – parks are crucial for social cohesion, cognitive development, and healthier lifestyles. The Parks for the Planet Forum in Salzburg this month is addressing Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation. Further reading: • The Strategy of innovative approaches and recommendations to improve health and well-being in the next decade following the deliberations of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014. • Healthy Parks Healthy People explores the links between nature and human health • Natural Solutions: Protected Areas are Vital for human health and well-being • E.O. Wilson explains why parks and nature are really good for your brain