Training Workshop IV
FORESTS AND HUMAN HEALTH
IUFRO Task Force "Forests and Human Health"
Matti Rousi, Metla, Finland
Heikki Henttonen, Metla, Finland
Erkki Kauhanen, Metla, Finland
Michael Kleine, IUFRO-SPDC
Emerging infectious diseases are considered to be among today’s major challenges to global health, human development as well as to science. The role of and potential effects on forests and implications for forest resource management are significant. Forest land use changes and practices, particularly when unregulated and unplanned, frequently lead to an increase of zoonotic and vector-born diseases and related decrease in biodiversity. Also several socio-economic changes will have an effect, including for example changes in energy use, in human behavior, in political landscape and crises. These aspects need to be taken into account when decisions on forest land use and forest resource planning are made.
Therefore, the workshop on “Forests and Human Health” was organized as part of the IUFRO-SPDC Pre-Congress Training Programme, at the Forest Human Resources Development Institute (FHI) in Namyangjiu City (near Seoul), Republic of Korea. The workshop offered participants from developing countries interesting challenges related to global health which are closely intertwined with the changes in forest and land uses. The participants enhanced their ability in applying state-of-the-art knowledge of the Forest-Human Health Impact Assessment (F-HIA) which was introduced as a tool for assessing health concerns in forest related projects and sustainable management.
The training workshop was designed and lead by Matti Rousi (Metla, Finland), Heikki Henttonen (Metla, Finland) and Erkki Kauhanen (Metla, Finland). In total, 19 scientists (11 women and 8 men) working at universities and research institutions from 10 countries participated in the workshop.
The two and a half day workshop started with a short introduction by Dr. Kleine on the background and need for such a training event followed by an overview by Professor Matti Rousi about the workshop content comprising the following seven sessions:
• General introduction on Forest-Human Health Impact Assessment (F-HIA);
• Presentations of regional problems;
• Zoonotic ecology: “Ecology of rodent-borne diseases”;
• F-HIA simulations;
• Planning of a F-HIA network;
• Regional problems “Biodiversity and health: the dilution effect” and “Ecology and
spread of emerging Echinococcus”; and
• Wrap-up discussions.
The workshop started with an introduction to the IUFRO Task Force on Forests and Human Health, ForHealth, whose research purview spanned mental and physical well-being, pharmaceuticals and neutraceuticals, forest food and herbs, to zoonotic diseases, respiratory problems and toxic substances, and served as an overview to the complex relationship of forests and human health. These aspects were discussed in detail through an informative review of cases dealing with global environmental health and biodiversity.
As a response to these challenges, the main focus of the Workshop was on the Forest-Human Health Impact Assessment (F-HIA). Human health related to forests can be evaluated by Health Impact Assessment (HIA) methodologies. The forest related HIA (F-HIA) tool systematically reviews the health aspects associated with a development policy, plan or project for a forested area and highlights potential health risk factors from changes in the environment.
Having acquired knowledge of this method, the participants were engaged in F-HIA simulations and applied its principles based on a self-defined scenario. The participants divided into three groups, and each was asked to identify a community and describe its socio-demographic and biophysical characteristics. After presentation and discussion of the community profile, each group proceeded with the scenario building where possible impacts of a change in status quo could have health and environmental consequences. The following impact assessment evaluated the identified impacts.
After careful review and discussion, recommendations as to whether the proposed changes in scenario would be acceptable or disapproved (all were approved with limitations) were given. Precautionary measures were presented as well.
In the discussion session, the participants presented the following valuable insights:
- Health impacts of forests are of global concern;
- Taking account of forest related matters can start a social revolution;
- Human behaviour is an interesting aspect of Forest-Human Health dynamics;
- More research on relations between human health and forests is needed. Focus on developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America and tropical forests is important;
- F-HIA must be incorporated in policy-level decisions as well as in policy formulation;
- F-HIA can be conducted alongside EIA (if time permits).
In the workshop summary, Matti Rousi thanked all participants for their active participation, the staff from IUFRO-SPDC and Korean organizations for their support, and wished the participants to keep in contact and use the newly gained knowledge in F-HIA.
This workshop has been successful because:
• a platform was built among participants which came from diverse professional
backgrounds for future exchange and cooperation;
• the latest scientific knowledge discussed will assist in future works of participants;
• the workshop pursued holistic thinking, and the participants were active during
discussions and think about organizing a workshop on medicinal properties of trees.
In total, 69 persons (32 women, 37 men) from 28 countries participated in the Training Workshops. Results of the training and satisfaction with the workshops were surveyed by an on-line questionnaire available to the participants during a period of one month after the Training Workshops. In total, 40 people responded to the request for comments.
In the survey, questions were addressed on the evaluation of 1) the individual thematic workshops, their content, difficulty, and value for the participants, 2) the additional skills training modules, and 3) the general organization and facilities of the Training Workshops.
Out of a total number of 40 responses, 7 commented on the Workshop on Forests and Human Health.
All but two answers indicated that there was great satisfaction with the Workshop, underlining that it lived up to the expectations of the participants. The relevance to the job of the participants was given, and all participants confirmed that they would be able to use well what they had learned.
General agreement was pointed out with regard to the Workshop objectives (one negative opinion), the added value from the training, the pace of the Workshop (one negative opinion asking to decrease the pace) and the quality of preparation by the instructors (one negative opinion). The highest score was given for recommending the Workshop to colleagues (but again with one negative opinion).
With regard to improving the Workshop, participants opted for increasing the content covered in the Workshop (57%), making the activities more stimulating (29%), and increasing the workshop time (57%).
Overall comments about the value of the Workshop highlighted that participants appreciated in particular the information gathered with regard to the F-HIA (Forest Health Impact Assessment) and the networking. For a future Training they suggest to include more time for group work, less presentations on “pure research” contents, and more emphasis could be given to the role of forest products in combating diseases.