“At the World Health Organisation, we are aware of the growing body of evidence that biodiversity loss is happening at unprecedented rates. There is increasing recognition that this is a fundamental risk to the healthy and stable ecosystems that sustain all aspects of our societies.
Human health is not immune from this threat. All aspects of human wellbeing depend on ecosystem goods and services, which in turn depend on biodiversity. Biodiversity loss can destabilize ecosystems, promote outbreaks of infectious disease, and undermine development progress, nutrition security and protection from natural disasters.
Protecting public health from these risks lies outside of the traditional roles of the health sector. It relies on working with partners engaged in conservation, and the sustainable use and management of natural resources.”
– WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION
The Planetary Health Project
The degradation of natural areas measurably impacts global health.
The global healthcare industry is a giant force that can measurably impact the health of natural areas.
In 1993, the Norwegian doctor, Per Fugelli, wrote “the patient Earth is sick.”. Some 21 years later, an article in The Lancet medical journal called for a revolution in Public Health such that it considers not just humans, but the health of the ecosystems that humans depend on.
Today, Planetary Health has become a new discipline in Healthcare. It seeks to combine Medicine and Conservation in cross-disciplinary partnerships, because our future is tied to that of our planet.
Park Doctor takes a lead from the Planetary Health movement, and focuses on the conservation of Protected Areas as one of the ways to preserve biodiversity and, in return, limit the health damage to humanity that is a result of its loss.
We also aim to ‘close the loop’ of Planetary Health, by having Doctors play a key role in Protected Areas conservation – simultaneously contributing to the health of people and the health of the planet.
“As science continues to unravel our understanding of the vital links between biodiversity, its persistent loss, global health and development, we become better equipped to develop robust, coherent and coordinated solutions that jointly reduce threats to human life and to the surrounding environment that sustains it.”
– BRAULIO FERREIRA DE SOUSA DIAS
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY ON THE CONVENTION OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
Protected Areas and Health
Park.Doctor is building partnerships for the health of the planet and the people who depend on it.
The UN sums up the importance of Biodiversity in terms of Planetary Health in their Sustainable Development section titled Connecting Global Priorities, Biodiversity and Human Health:
“The inexorable links between biodiversity, ecosystems, the provision of these benefits and human health are deeply entrenched in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, and reflected in its 2050 Vision: “Biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits for all people.” They are central to our common agenda for sustainable development.
The dual challenges of biodiversity loss and rising global health burdens are not only multifaceted and complex; they also transcend sectoral, disciplinary and cultural boundaries, and demand far-reaching coherent and collaborative solutions.
Biodiversity, ecosystems and the essential services that they deliver are central pillars for all life on the planet, including human life. They are sources of food and essential nutrients, medicines and medicinal compounds, fuel, energy, livelihoods and cultural and spiritual enrichment. They also contribute to the provision of clean water and air, and perform critical functions that range from the regulation of pests and disease to that of climate change and natural disasters. Each of these functions has direct and indirect consequences for our health and well-being, and each an important component of the epidemiological puzzle that confront our efforts to stem the tide of infectious and noncommunicable diseases. “
Although far from perfect, Protected Areas are one of conservation’s best strategies to safeguard areas of biodiversity, and defend them from pressures such as poaching, deforestation and farming.
As such, finding strategies to make Protected Areas valuable to the communities in them is key to achieving protection of biodiversity, and therefore Planetary Health. We think that the provision of health in these areas (where currently it is almost universally lacking) is a huge opportunity. It allows health professionals to act upon the Planetary Health challenge by using their skills and knowledge in a direct way.
Park Talk: Planetary Health
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