Forests and Human Health July-1-2009

Book Reviews

Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity

Links between loss of species diversity in nature and the health of human populations are not well understood. We still don’t have a detailed inventory of Earth’s organismal diversity: probably less than 10 % of the species on earth have been described and our knowledge of the ecosystem functions for the fraction of species we do recognize is still inadequate.

Evidence from marine fossils suggest the background extinction rate about one extinction per for every million species each year. For birds, recent extinctions run at about 100 times the background rate. For primates, amphibians and gymnosperms the extinction rates are even higher.

As natural environments decline, so can our health – particularly the health of communities that depend on the supporting “services” of intact forests. Loss of biodiversity itself may be a major risk for new epidemics of infectious diseases. Recent book edited by Chivian and Bernstein synthezises efforts to circumscribe biological diversity and current threats to it and to reveal biodiversity’s many functional roles in supporting healthy environments, in drug development and biomedical research, and in understanding infectious diseases and best practices for land use.

Sustainable health means good health for the current generation, but not at the expense of good health for future generations. This is the central theme for Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity edited and written by Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, Eds. Oxford University Press, New York, 2008.


Human Health and Forests: A Global Overview of Issues, Practice and Policy  

Human Health and Forests: A Global Overview of Issues, Practice and Policy   CIFOR 2008 Price: USD $95.00 Binding: Paperback 352 Pages

Hundreds of millions of people live and work in forests across the world. The issues and challenges of protecting and enhancing human health in forested areas, and the unique relationship between the health of forests and the health of people, form a vital, yet largely unexamined, aspect of their lives.

This book, written for a broad audience, is the first comprehensive introduction to the issues surrounding the health of people living in and around forests, particularly in Asia, South America and Africa.

Part I is a set of synthesis chapters, addressing policy, public health, environmental conservation, and ecological perspectives on health and forests including women and child health, medicinal plants and viral diseases such as Ebola, SARS and Nipah Encephalitis.

Part II takes a multi-lens approach to lead the reader to a more concrete and holistic understanding using case studies from around the world that cover issues as important as the links between HIV/AIDS and the forest sector, and between diet and health.

Part III looks at the specific challenges to health care delivery in forested areas, including remoteness and the integration of traditional medicine with modern health care.

Generous use of boxes with specific examples add layers of depth to the analyses, and the book concludes with a synthesis designed for use by practitioners and policy makers to work with forest dwellers to improve their health and their ecosystems.

This title presents the first comprehensive examination of the vital links between human health and forests, with emphasis on the ground practice and policy measures for professionals.  It is a new title in the "People and Plants International Series", authored by world leaders in the field. It includes coverage of a range of issues from forests as reservoirs for disease such as Ebola to the links between health and forest conservation with case studies from Asia, Africa and South America.


Matti Rousi


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