“Urban living in built, asphalt-covered environments with little green space, together with the use of processed water and food, may not provide us with the broad microbial stimulation necessary for the development of a balanced immune function.”
Helsinki alert of biodiversity and health
von Hertzen L, et al. Ann Med. 2015.
Quote from Bernard Gozevitz, MD, CCFP
CWF Foundation Chair
Most people in the world live in cities; the Helsinki report confirms that this disconnection from nature is literally making humanity sick. It was written and released by a collection of top medical professionals including Dr. John Bienenstock, Member of the Order of Canada and famed immunologist.
The above is an excerpt from the Helsinki Alert of Biodiversity and Health, a report released by the international medical community that confirms the vital connection between nature and human health, a message that has been at the core of Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) programs for more than 50 years.
According to the report, the loss of habitat due to urbanization has caused a massive loss of biodiversity and this loss of biodiversity impacts our health. Exposure to natural environments enhances physical and mental health as well as cognitive functions. Our disconnection from nearby nature is a prime reason why allergies, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease and even some forms of cancer have become epidemics. The same is true for mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Built environments, such as rubber based playground materials so common in Canada, do not provide us with the necessary microbes to sustain healthy lifestyles. Early childhood exposure to natural environments is a critical part of ensuring lifelong healthy lifestyles. Canadian Wildlife Federation programs for teenagers, like Wild Outside, ensure that the microbes necessary for human health remain in the body over the course of one’s life by encouraging participants to live healthy lifestyles into adulthood.
In response to the report, the Canadian Wildlife Federation will continue to follow its strategic mission to educate Canadians on the importance of connecting to our natural world. Since 1962 CWF has taken a lead role in ensuring that Canadians have a healthy appreciation of our wildlife and natural spaces. We encourage people to use the green spaces close to where they live: ravines in Toronto, the River Valley in Edmonton, Mount Royal Park in Montreal, Nose Hill Park in Calgary or Stanley Park in Vancouver are great examples of this.
People can create nature connection opportunities that allow children to interact and engage natural settings. One easy and fun way to do that is through our CWF Wild Family Nature Clubs. National Health and Nature Programs like this are needed to increase the public awareness of nature’s health effects and to affect attitudes and orientation. It is especially important to target children and teenagers; both the environment and the youngsters would benefit. Politicians and stakeholders in urban planning must become more aware about the effects of natural environments on human health. Elements of country life should be moved to cities, including measures that increase the diversity of microbiota.
CWF will be issuing further statements around this report in the coming days. To view the full report, click here: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/07853890.2015.1010226.
The Organizations that have signed off on the Helsinki Alert
- Yrj ö Jahnsson Foundation, Helsinki, Finland,
- Center for the Genetics of Host Defence, University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas, USA,
- Department of Pathology, Brain-Body Institute, McMaster University Ontario, Hamilton, Canada,
- New York University Langone Medical Center, University of New York, New York, USA,
- Universit é catholique de Louvain, Louvain Drug Research Institute, WELBIO, Brussels, Belgium,
- Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland,
- Helsinki University and Helsinki University Hospital, Clinic of Gastroenterology, Finland,
- Skin and Allergy Hospital, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland,
- Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland,
- Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Link ö ping, Link ö ping, Sweden,
- Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden,
- Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden,
- Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm,
- Children ’ s Hospital, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland,
- Department of Medicine, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland,
- Department of Public Health Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland,
- Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Lund, Malm ö , Sweden,
- Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark,
- Department of Pediatric Allergy and Asthma at the Doctor von Hauner Children’s Hospital, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Germany,
- University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Helsinki, Finland,
- Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiochemistry, Molecular Diagnostics, Philipps University Marburg, Germany,
- Centre for Clinical Microbiology, University College London, London, United Kingdom,
- VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, Espoo, Finland, 22 National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland,
- Lymphocyte signalling and development laboratory, Babraham Institute Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom,
- RPU Immunobiology, Department of Bacteriology & Immunology, and Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
Authors of the Helsinki Alert
links, awards, and qualifications
Leena von Hertzen
Dr. Patrice D Cani
Dr. Johan Eriksson
Dr. Tari Haahtela
Author of 'The biodiversity hypothesis and allergic disease: world allergy organization position statement'
Past chief physician of medical genetics at University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central Hospital
Now at the Karolinska Institute which is responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Dr. Mikael Knip
Dr Kimmo Kontula
University of Helsinki
University of Helsinki
Dr Charlotte Ling
Lecturer at the Lund University and Principal investigator of the Epigenetics and Diabetes Unit at the Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC), Sweden
Dr Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen
Adjunct professor in Immunodiabetology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden the Karolinska Institute is responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Dr Erika von Mutius
2013 Leibniz Prize the most important German research prize of 2.5 million Euros
Dr Mika J. Mäkelä
Dr Tiina Paunio
National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland
Dr Göran Pershagen
Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM), The Karolinska Institute is responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Dr Graham Rook
The Hygiene Hypothesis and Darwinian Medicine
The mechanism of the health benefit derived from green spaces
Dr Maria Saarela
University of Helsinki
Dr Outi Vaarala
MD, PhD, Professor of pediatric immunology
Vice President, Head of Translational Science
AstraZeneca - Respiratory and Inflammation iMED (R&I iMED)
Dr Willem M. de Vos
Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)
Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Nordic Network of Excellence Food, Nutrition and Health
Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, Cork Ireland
Academy Professor at Helsinki University
Quote from Dr. John Bienenstock. Signatory on the Helsinki Alert, Member of the Order of Canada.
Scott D. Sampson, Ph.D., Vice President of Research & Collections, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Author: How to Raise a Wild Child
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, and chairman emeritus of the international Children & Nature Network.