Thanks to everyone who attended our biennial workshop Ecohealth in Action on November 9th in Toronto. We were pleased to welcome a diverse group of participants from various sectors all of whom brought incredible energy and knowledge to the day's discussions.
EcoHealth Ontario is grateful to all of those who attended and added their perspective to the work of our collaborative and the conversation around the issue of ecohealth.
On this page, you'll find the resources that we discussed throughout the day. You can also download the presentations delivered as part of the workshops.
If you have any questions or additional feedback, please contact Ravi Singh at Forests Ontario at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-646-1193 ext. 221.
The full agenda of the workshop, including speakers bios, is available here.
Keynote Presentation: Healthy Ecosystems - Healthy Communities: the Importance of Ecohealth in the Age of the Anthropocene
Dr. Faisal Moola (right), Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada, David Suzuki Foundation
The video from Dr. Moola's presentation can be viewed here.
Sarah Elton, PhD Candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Ecohealth in Ontario - Learning from the Past and the Present
Dr. Karen Morrison, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies York University
Helen Doyle, Manager, Public Health Branch, York Region Community and Health Services Department
Rob Voigt, Chair of Planning issues Strategy Group, Ontario Professional Planners Institute
Below are the tools and resources highlighted at Ecohealth in Action:
Conserving Biodiversity: A Public Health Imperative is a new report from EcoHealth Ontario that compiles information about the essential health benefits provided by biodiversity. You can view highlights from the report and read it in full at conservebiodiversity.ca. Conserving biodiversity and maintaining healthy ecosystems is vital because of the intimate and intrinsic connections between human health and the environment. Healthy water and soil resources ensure that we have safe drinking water and healthy food supplies. Better air quality, cooler temperatures, and exposure to nature foster mental and physical health and wellbeing, including reduced depression, anxiety, cardiopulmonary disease, asthma, and diabetes.
Biodiversity in Ontario is being threatened by climate change, urban sprawl, environmental degradation, and the impact of our daily lifestyle footprints. This report from EcoHealth Ontario compiles information about the essential role that biodiversity plays in enhancing our collective resilience to climate change and protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of current and future generations of Ontarians. It includes recommendations for ways that practitioners and professionals working in conservation, public health, planning, education, medical and other sectors can contribute towards supporting biodiversity through the protection of air, land, and water resources, and other ecological determinants of health.
Across Ontario, municipalities and their partners are increasingly recognizing the connections among greenspace, healthy built environments, and community health and wellbeing. Greenspaces not only improve the physical, spiritual and psychological health of communities, but also offer a range of ecological and ecosystem benefits that are key to our sustainability and wellbeing in the face of climate change.
This toolkit supports the integration of ecological and health considerations into municipal policies in a range of sectors, including parks and recreation, engineering, forestry, public health and planning. It introduces important ecohealth concepts and provides resources, guidance and assistance to those interested in achieving health-based outcomes through strategic ecohealth thinking and action. The toolkit presents case studies from municipalities, public health and conservation agencies where ecohealth is being integrated into policies, practices, and programs to make lasting improvements in community health through greenspace provision, access, and design.
Greenspaces are areas in cities and the countryside that are predominantly covered by vegetation, including natural areas, parks, community gardens, playgrounds, street trees, yards, agricultural areas, wetlands, forests and nature reserves. The fundamental role of greenspaces in supporting human health and well-being at various scales and delivering important ecological functions is being increasingly recognized.
EcoHealth Ontario's casebook describes how green spaces provide both environmental and public health benefits in Ontario. Some of the key benefits and important functions that green spaces serve in our communities include: providing tree cover on city streets to provide shade and cooling during increasingly hot summers; storm water management; improved air and water quality; storing water during droughts; recharging groundwater; and improved mental health outcomes linked with exposure to nature and outdoor recreational activities. Protecting and expanding greenspaces is central to the integrity of the province's social and ecological determinants of health. The casebook highlights the need for increased capacity building and political attention to the potential co-benefits that can be realized by thinking about green spaces as settings for health and well-being at various scales.
The value of green space in urban areas has been recognized throughout human history. Access to safe, well maintained, natural settings in an urban environment promotes health and wellbeing through many pathways. Some of these include, increases in the rate of physical activity, fostering social connections, and reducing stress. This report, published by Toronto Public Health, describes the impact of different exposures to urban green space on physical health, mental health and wellbeing, along with the green space types and characteristics that offer the most benefit to health.
The meta-narrative systematic review synthesizes findings from 106 methodologically strong studies that examine a wide range of health outcomes and green space types. A statistically significant positive relationship between urban green space and at least one aspect of health was identified in 78% of the associations investigated. Key findings include the value of greenspace for mental health, the importance of frequent access to green space, especially for children, and the benefits of nearby and inclusive green space for in low-income neighborhoods and vulnerable populations.
Urban green spaces, such as parks and urban forests, are widely recognized for their ability to provide relief from heat and heat stress and improve air quality. This systematic review, published by the David Suzuki Foundation, provides a more in-depth understanding of the effect of different urban green space characteristics, including type and scale, on heat island mitigation and air pollution reduction at both local and city-wide scales. The report synthesizes research evidence from 102 peer-reviewed studies published over the past five years on how green spaces can help to reduce heat, improve air quality and support healthy livable urban communities.
Key findings include an association between all scales of green space, from trees, parkettes and green walls to urban forests and other large natural areas, and relief from heat stress, reduced urban heat islands and air pollution. Overall, these effects have been associated with significant health benefits for residents and the community. There is also evidence that these ecological benefits are directly related to the size, quality and density of the green space.