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Promoting Health and Well-Being by Managing for Social–Ecological Resilience: the Potential of Integrating Ecohealth and Water Resources Management Approaches

Martin J Bunch, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University; Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health
Karen E Morrison, Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph; Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health
Margot W Parkes, Health Sciences Program, University of Northern British Columbia; Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health
Henry D Venema, International Institute for Sustainable Development; Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health


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In coupled social–ecological systems, the same driving forces can result in combined social and environmental health inequities, hazards, and impacts. Policies that decrease social inequities and improve social cohesion, however, also have the potential to improve health outcomes and to minimize and offset the drivers of ecosystem change. Actions that address both biophysical and social environments have the potential to create a "double dividend" that improves human health, while also promoting sustainable development. One promising approach to managing the
complex, reciprocal interactions among ecosystems, society, and health
is the integration of the ecohealth approach (which holds that human
health and well-being are both dependent on ecosystems and are important
outcomes of ecosystem management) with watershed-based water resources
management. Using key management concepts such as resilience, such approaches can help reduce vulnerability to natural hazards, maintain ecological flows of water and the provision of other ecological services, and promote long-term sustainability of coupled human and natural systems. Priorities for understanding and realizing health benefits of watershed management include (i) addressing poverty and reducing inequities, (ii) promoting resilience (for health) in watersheds, and (iii) applying watersheds as a context for intersectoral management tools and policy integration. Examples of work linking health and watershed management demonstrate that not only is appreciation of complex systems important, but an effective approach is participatory and transdisciplinary and gives attention to equity and historical context.

Key words

ecohealth; ecosystem approach; environment and health; environmental determinants of health; health promotion; integrated water resources management; resilience; social determinants of health; watershed governance; watershed management

Copyright © 2011 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087