Forests and trees have a great influence on human health and well-being. They provide food and medicinal compounds and generate a range of ecosystem services. They are also a part of the aesthetic legacy of mankind and counteract stress in human beings, supporting our psychological capacity and mental health.
Forest degradation has already had consequences for human health in many areas. Outbreaks of old and new diseases, and damage to food crops, are related to the loss of habitats of a number of animals that are forced to move closer to human habitation.
Issues of this kind are related to the social sustainability of forestry, which is one of the three dimensions of sustainable development (environmental - economic - social). It deserves greater emphasis than has so far been given in international forest policy.
As a result, IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations) has launched a new Task Force on Forests and Human Health, ForHealth. Its purpose is to support the cross-sectoral dialogue between the different players in this field, especially forestry and health professionals. It will bring a global perspective to the activities carried out at the European level.
The ForHealth Task Force will have two priority areas:
- maximizing health benefits of forests, and
- managing health risks connected with forests.
The activities of the ForHealth Task Force cover organizing conferences and round-table discussions; producing a state-of -art report, newsletters and other publications; delivering information and improving networking through web-portal; and enhancing the set-up of research projects. The themes to be worked with include means of delivering health through forests and good practices.
The logo of the task force is designed by Essi Puranen of Metla.