Good to Know

Exploring Health-Environment Connection

Spring Meadow
Written by Patti Foley

CREDIT VALLEY CONSERVATION and YORK UNIVERSITY partner to study health and environment linkages

November 17, 2015 – The connection between human health and environmental health is clear. Air and water pollution can affect health outcomes at the individual and community levels. But how far does the connection go? Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) and York University have partnered to explore the more subtle and complex interactions between human health and the health of the environment.

The environment provides some obvious benefits and some that are less tangible, but equally important. Having access to natural areas has been linked to improved mental and physical health in studies conducted around the world. Through a survey of watershed residents in 2011, CVC observed a connection between proximity to natural space and an individual’s sense of well-being. This study looked at urban residents in the Credit River watershed and asked a series of questions related to health, wellness, physical activity and stress level.

“Human health and environmental health are intertwined,” said Mike Puddister, Deputy CAO for Credit Valley Conservation. “This is something that people in the environmental sector have been aware of, but understanding this relationship and defining it objectively will allow us to incorporate these data into our planning decisions and build healthier communities moving forward.”

The partnership between CVC and York University was initiated with a joint research project funded by the Water, Economics, Policy and Governance Network (WEPGN) in 2013. That project was aimed at helping CVC explore and report on the status and relationships between ecosystem health and human health and well-being in the Credit River watershed. This year, the partnership was cemented by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the purposes of advancing further research, education and information on environmental management.

As part of the MOU, CVC donated $25,000 to York University toward the development of a web-based mapping tool that will help communicate and plan for shared environmental and health benefits in the Credit River watershed. Recently, WEPGN announced close to $94,000 in additional project funding over the next three years to develop a set of scenarios that will demonstrate the impact of conservation actions on the well-being of watershed’s residents and visitors.

This funding will also be used to assess a relative value of benefits provided by the local environment and natural areas. For example, a woodlot provides a bundle of benefits that range from improving air quality to providing recreational opportunities for children. Such assessment will help to ensure that watershed management brings maximum health and well-being benefits to local communities.

According to Dr. Martin Bunch of York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies “People often see the environment as something separate from their everyday lives or something they only interact with on occasion. The environment is all-encompassing and has deep and profound impacts on our health and well-being.”

One important goal of the partnership is to generate knowledge and awareness about these relationships. This knowledge is important for future planning and development decisions at all levels of government.

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About the author

Patti Foley

Having spent 25 years in Bolton, Patti remains an advocate for Caledon. As a former Regional Councillor and a long-time community volunteer she is passionate about communicating information about its issues, news, events, people, non-profits and businesses.

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