Toward an Ecological View of Health: An Imperative for the Twenty-First Century

Sep 01, 2006

This paper addresses four basic themes. First, as with all forms of life, humans are fundamentally dependent on environmental quality and ecosystem services for their well-being and quality of life. Locally, regionally, and globally, ecosystems and the services that they provide are under considerable stress and undergoing rapid change unique in human history with profound implications for human health.

Second, the healthcare sector not only treats people whose illnesses are in part or whole attributable to environmental conditions, but also contributes in multiple ways to environmental degradation that fosters ill health.

Third, the healthcare sector has both an opportunity and a responsibility to address these realities by modifying practices and modeling behavior in ways that demonstrate an understanding of ecological health. Ecological health embraces the deeply fundamental complex interrelationships that collectively influence human and environmental health.

Finally, as the costs of medical care continue to increase, we will increasingly come face to face with the uncomfortable question: How much are we really interested in disease prevention and health promotion and restoration?

Ted Schettler, MD, MPH
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The Center for Health Design

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