Expert Panel on Forests and Human Health 2023

The United Nations estimates that less than half of the global population is covered by essential health services. Adding to the low rate of coverage, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused further healthcare disruptions that could reverse decades of improvements. Moreover, in recent years, there has been a surge in zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Malaria, and the avian flu, and illness and deaths from such diseases are expected to spike in the future. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can strengthen the momentum for combatting these pressing challenges. The third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3) aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Several studies have concluded that nature, particularly forests, contribute to physical and mental well-being and can notably improve human health. Forests can act as a buffer that maintains well-being, provides resources (e.g., food and medicine) and services such as air purification or recreation, especially in urban areas, potentially reducing exposure to environmental diseases and other hazards. However, the relationship between forests and human health is complex, as evidence also shows that forest proximate communities are more prone to zoonotic and infectious diseases, which are often exacerbated by forest degradation and encroachment.

Consequently, in July 2021, IUFRO initiated a global scientific assessment on forests and human health in the frame of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF)'s Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) initiative. The assessment will provide reliable and synthesized scientific information, crucial to efficiently utilize the synergies and achieve optimal trade-offs between human health, and the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of forest ecosystems, their biodiversity (including wildlife), as well as trees in other land-uses. The report and the accompanying policy brief will also present response options relevant to the policy context at various levels.

This global assessment report planned to be published in March 2023, will contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by highlighting the nexus between SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being and SDG 15: Life on Land, as well as relevant links to other SDGs. The assessment will provide input to the 2023 session of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2023), the 18th session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF18) and other international forums considering forest-related issues, such as the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-16) and the UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP-27).