EcoHealth Ontario members have contributed to the development and publication of a number of various reports which explore the evidence of ecosystem connections as well as provide examples of projects that incorporate ecohealth practices.

 
 

Ecohealth in Action: Achieving Health and Wellbeing

EcoHealth Ontario’s second biannual meeting, Ecohealth in Action, focused on supporting and expanding the ecohealth community in Ontario—by creating new opportunities for collaboration and introducing the organization’s new resources and tools. Participants engaged in a full day of discussion, knowledge exchange, debate and networking.

Greenspace and EcoHealth Toolkit

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.

Conserving Biodiversity: A Public Health Imperative

Conserving Biodiversity: A Public Health Imperative is a 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.

Leveraging the Benefits of Green Space

Linking green spaces explicitly to the protection and enhancement of human health and wellbeing has the potential to help us reduce or mitigate the wide ranging and escalating impacts of climate change to the environment and our own well-being. This report presents a casebook of Ontario-based initiatives that explore practices that are helping to protect and enhance green spaces. Examples of projects that can be applied in your community can be found HERE.

Green City: Why Nature Matters to Health

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 Impact of Green Space on Heat and Air Pollution

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.

Realizing the Health Benefits of Green Spaces

There is growing understanding of the complex linkages among the natural and built environments and human health. Nature can help mitigate a wide range of physical and mental illnesses associated with modern lifestyles, urbanization, and changing climate. Unfortunately, current patterns of urban development are eroding and reducing access to natural areas and affecting the capacity of human settlements to be resilient to extreme weather events.

A Healthy Dose of Green:

Report

Healthy forests play an important role in the foundation of resilient ecosystems. Trees and other plants use the energy from sunlight and nutrients from soil and air to generate oxygen and produce the base of the food chain upon which all animal life depends.

A Healthy Dose of Green: Forum

On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, Trees Ontario convened a multi-disciplinary group of experts to discuss the roles of trees and forests in building healthy communities. Thirty seven people attended, representing the medical, public health, environmental, forestry, planning, parks, heritage and education sectors.

Leveraging the Benefits of Green Space for Environmental and Public Health Benefits

This report presents a casebook of Ontario-based initiatives that explore practices that are helping to protect and enhance green spaces.

 While these projects originate in Ontario, they are not unique to this region. They can be implemented anywhere to address the same conditions which occur worldwide. The goal of this report is twofold: to figure out how to better assess the benefits of green spaces and to encourage us all to connect public health and well-being with our natural environment more effectively.

 Ecohealth Ontario has also developed an EcoHealth Policy Toolkit with policy-related examples to help professionals create policies, programs and practices that create healthier communities by incorporating ecohealth practices and policies. The toolkit combines research with case studies of specific policies and program used in Ontario. More information and policy case studies can be found HERE.

Street Trees

Urban street trees convey a number of significant environmental services to the communities of people, and of other species, who live among them. They have much to teach us about the challenges of climate change in urban ecosystems and the opportunities to adapt to it. Compared to other urban trees, street trees appear to be disproportionately valuable to the protection and maintenance of human health and well-being.

Hospital Gardens

There are many different manifestations of community gardens, including those supported by public institutions such as hospitals, long-term care facilities and prisons. The latter are also known as institutional gardens and are associated with an expanded range of social benefits, including rehabilitation, restoration and skills training.

School Greening

Social values are converging that link equitable and accessible opportunities for children’s active play with the individual and social benefits of green spaces. This shift is represented by the gradual expansion of school greening programs. Creating a green school ground is not as easy as pulling up the asphalt and planting some trees and shrubs, however. It requires system-wide changes not only to playground design and maintenance, but also to the larger socio-political context in which the school is embedded.

Mood Walks

The evidence supporting a positive relationship between exposure to natural environments and human health and well-being is growing exponentially. Programs like Mood Walks are taking advantage of the convergence between exercise, mood and exposure to nature to create programs targeting a variety of vulnerable populations. The programs are allowing mental health professionals to explore new avenues for intervention with a variety of vulnerable populations.

Greenways

Greenways are important for connecting communities and places. Engaging the public and promoting physical activity is a major benefit of greenways. In addition to exercise, greenways serve as ecological corridors that connect people, neighbourhoods, communities and towns. As a green space itself, the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail also leverages the health and well-being benefits of blue spaces: a key goal is to route the trail as close to the water’s edge as environmentally feasible.

Urban Forests

Given the significant natural capital invested in urban forests and their well-recognized benefits, research related to urban forests is more overtly economic than in many other green-space and health domains. Other values are beginning to shape the debate, however; including social cohesion, social equity and environmental justice. “Priority Tree Planting Areas to Grow Peel’s Urban Forest” is the first program of its kind in Canada.

Urban Parks

Urban parks are increasingly being designed to contribute to not only the socio-economic and health well-being of nearby residents, but also to the ecological functioning of these social-ecological systems. O’Connor Park in Mississauga is an example of a newly created multi-functional park space that provides community uses while prioritizing the protection of a natural heritage feature, in this case a wetland and cultural meadow. The park is a demonstration site looking at the implementation and effectiveness of a variety of Low Impact Development technologies.

Greenbelts

Greenbelts are used by cities around the world to protect swaths of natural features and agricultural land surrounding cities and towns from urban development. The Ontario Greenbelt was established in 2005 to protect the land that surrounds the Golden Horseshoe region. It built upon previous conservation initiatives established in the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan. The scope and scale of the greenbelt fosters additional reflection on both the population health level benefits that are received from the connection to place being fostered by the Greenbelt within the region and the positive impact that this landscape has on the well-being of society.

Watershed Management

Extensive deforestation and uncontrolled development in the late 1800s and early 1900s left Southern Ontario’s socialecological systems in a precarious state. In addition to the shift to semi-arid desert conditions across much of the province, there was a concurrent increase in severe flooding. Erosion and flooding caused extensive damage to property and proved fatal on a number of occasions. As public awareness and concern over this issue increased, there were calls for a political response.

Regional Forest Restoration

Many Ontarians are unaware that, in the mid to late 1800s, human activities turned large swaths of Southern Ontario into semi-arid desert. This ecosystem shift was largely due to rampant and uncontrolled deforestation. It had the effect of devastating rural communities and livelihoods across the region. The ‘cure’ for this socio-economic and ecological disaster was an extensive and on-going investment in reforestation. Reforestation programs helped restore the viability of agriculture and rural communities through their impact on soil and water resources.