The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a report providing an overview of the impacts of the natural environment on human health. The report is written with a focus on the WHO European Region, concentrating on the many ways that nature, biodiversity, and ecosystems can support and protect health and well-being, while also examining how environmental change and loss of biodiversity, from plant and animal species to microbiomes within the human gut, can threaten human health.
The report contains the following key messages:
- Nature provides the basic conditions for human health. For example, nature can be essential to purify water or regulate air quality, and enables soil formation and food production on land and in seas.
- The environment protects human health. While nature itself can also present health risks, intact, functioning, and resilient nature can help to mitigate extreme events and effects of natural disasters, and may help limit human exposure to pathogens.
- Pressure on natural environments threatens human health. Processes such as climate change, resource depletion, and loss of biodiversity contribute to the increasing frequency of extreme events, threaten ecological collapse and affect food systems. Environmental change is also resulting in conflict and displacement of people, with consequent health impacts.
The aim of the report is to inform policy and decision-makers in the health and environment sectors, as well as other sectors involved with the protection, management and use of nature and biodiversity. The report may also be of use to planners seeking ways to benefit from natural and biodiverse environments locally.
Source: WHO, 20 May 2021