Expert forum takes lead on addressing links between the environment, health and economy
TORONTO, September 13, 2012 – A group of leading experts from the medical community as well as the environment, forestry, planning, parks, heritage, education and government sectors gathered yesterday to discuss the role of trees and forests in building healthy communities. The Healthy Dose of Green Expert Forum, hosted by Trees Ontario and sponsored by Conservation Ontario, was the first of its kind at the provincial level to thoroughly examine the connections among trees, forests and human health as well as practical strategies to incorporate the environment into our understanding of health care.
Earlier this year, Trees Ontario released a report entitled A Healthy Dose of Green: A prescription for a healthy population. The paper highlights the growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of forest ecosystems for human health. This report, well received by the medical, forestry and academic communities, reveals that a relatively modest investment in forest restoration activities can reap great rewards by reducing long-term health care costs while contributing to the collective health, well-being and productivity of current and future generations.
Dr. John Howard, MD, FRCPC and Chair of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), contributed to the development of Trees Ontario’s health report. He was also the keynote presenter at yesterday’s forum. “In our current health care model, most of the resources are allocated to the last six months of one’s life,” said Dr. Howard. “We need to put less money into sickness care and invest more in prevention, education, social services and the environment to ensure the health of future generations.”
Forest fragmentation across Canada’s settled landscape is contributing to an unstable ecosystem resulting in habitat loss, environmental degradation and an inability to adapt to the effects of climate change. With our forests in jeopardy, we urgently need to expand and intensify tree planting and forest restoration initiatives in urban and rural areas nation-wide.
“We need to enlarge and reconnect our fragmented forests to help conserve biodiversity which is particularly at risk in southern Ontario.” said Rob Keen, RPF, CEO of Trees Ontario. “Investing back into the forests will have inherent benefits for us all. This forum has served as an important reminder that healthy ecosystems are essential to sustaining healthy people and a healthy and prosperous economy.”
Trees Ontario, the largest not-for-profit tree planting partnership in North America, is dedicated to strategic restoration efforts in response to forest fragmentation in Canada. The not-for-profit works with a growing network of stakeholders to plant trees and restore the health of our natural environment across ecologically-significant landscapes in order to establish contiguous forests that extend beyond the geopolitical boundaries of Canadian cities and provinces.
“Prevention requires that we understand why illness occurs in the first place and this cannot be done without considering the environment as a contributing factor,” said Dr. John McLaughlin, Professor of epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, who provided expert remarks at the forum. “I applaud Trees Ontario on leading efforts to initiate a much needed cross-sectoral dialogue on how forests and the greening of communities can contribute to better health.”
Ultimately, greater forest cover will foster a cleaner, greener Canada that is more resilient to the effects of climate change and one that is rich in employment, tourism, recreation and economic opportunities associated with the nation’s prized natural resources. Trees Ontario invites all organizations and individuals interested in the health of our environment to join the recovery efforts.