World Commission on Protected Areas

Health and Well-being

The IUCN WCPA Health and Well-being Specialist Group promotes the health and well-being benefits of nature across the conservation, health and other sectors.
Wading in the Lake

IUCN WCPA Specialist Group Co-Chairs

Denise Hewlett

Jo Hopkins
Jo Hopkins Photo: Jo Hopkins

IUCN WCPA Health and Well-being Specialist Group TOR 2017-2020

Building on the work of the previous Healthy Parks Healthy People Taskforce, this Specialist Group will facilitate partnerships to influence policies and plans across sectors, build and communicate the evidence on benefits of nature for human health and wellbeing and encourage the development of standard metrics to measure the co-benefits. 

Why is this so important?

Contact with nature is critical for our physical, mental, social and spiritual health and wellbeing. Indigenous Peoples have known of these fundamental connections for tens of thousands of years. Yet our environment is facing significant challenges from continuing degradation of our ‘natural capital’, including soil, water and biodiversity loss, which underpins healthy ecosystems and provides a wide range of services that sustain our livelihoods and wellbeing.

By 2050, our urban population will double from today’s 3.5 billion to over 7 billion and safeguarding this increasingly scarce resource for our future health and well-being is vital. Nature, including national parks and other protected areas, urban green spaces, wetlands and healthy oceans all act as crucial gateways that connect people with nature. Contact with nature can play an increasingly important role in reducing the alarming global increase in non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes, as well as help prevent and treat mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Indigenous Peoples have known of the fundamental importance of nature for well-being for tens of thousands of years, and there is a large and growing body of both scientific evidence and cultural knowledge of the dependency and benefits of human health from healthy ecosystems.


There are three key objectives of the Health and Well-being Specialist Group:

  1. To mainstream health and well-being benefits of nature across the conservation, health and other sectors though development of interdisciplinary materials, case studies, tools and programs.
  2. To facilitate environment/conservation and health partnerships at a global, regional, national and sub-national scale, to influence policies and plans across sectors that support programs in protected areas and other parks and greenspaces.  
  3. To further build and communicate the evidence and knowledge base on the extent of benefits of nature for human health and wellbeing.

Health and Well-being, #NatureForAll and Urban Conservation Strategies

The Health and Wellbeing Specialist Group will work closely with other groups within the IUCN that have a focus on connecting people with nature including #NatureForAll, Urban Conservation Strategies and ecosystem services groups.

How you can become a member

The Health and Wellbeing Specialist Group welcomes new members. To become a member of the group  contact the Specialist Group Chair, Jo Hopkins and/or fill in the application form on the following page : Become a WCPA member


International Healthy Parks Healthy People Congress 2010

Awareness of the importance of healthy nature for human health and well-being has grown substantially in the past decade. The inaugural International Healthy Parks Healthy People Congress held in 2010 in Melbourne, Australia was a key catalyst for progressing this agenda and brought together 1,200 participants from 37 countries from planning, community development, health, tourism, climate change, education and conservation sectors. The Congress explored the many ways parks and protected areas contribute to our health and well-being and launched the Healthy Parks Healthy People approach on the radar for government, education and business sectors. Several countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Korea, Finland, Scotland and South Africa subsequently developed their own Healthy Parks Healthy People initiatives, strategies and programs.

Resolution 39: Healthy Parks Healthy People 2012

The adoption of Resolution 39, Healthy Parks Healthy People at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2012 in Jeju, followed by the Promise of Sydney at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, further elevated this agenda, creating a substantial platform for action, based on the important role played by nature (and more specifically parks and protected areas) in promoting, protecting and restoring human health and well-being.

IUCN World Parks Congress 2014

The 2014 Congress in Sydney via Stream 3, Improving Health and Well-being: Healthy Parks Healthy People, strongly demonstrated the IUCN and wider conservation community has an important leadership role to play in setting the agenda and facilitating global action in this area. Stream 3 demonstrated the fundamental link between healthy ecosystems and human health and well-being and more specifically the role that parks and protected areas can play in improving human health and well-being. This features in the ‘Promise of Sydney’, a bold vision which encapsulates the key recommendations and solutions developed because of the Congress. This Promise was supported by the commitments of over 50 countries and organisations to accelerate implementation of conservation goals through protected areas.

Salzburg Global Seminar, Parks for the Planet Forum 2015

An important milestone was reached in 2015 through a collaboration between IUCN and the Salzburg Global Seminar to form a partnership, the Parks for the Planet Forum - a ten-year leadership and action platform to accelerate transformational change by placing nature at the heart of human health, well-being, security and prosperity in a rapidly urbanising world. Participants at the Forum’s first meeting issued the Salzburg Challenge for Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation, setting out concrete recommendations for cross-sector action, noting that cities and local governments provide an exceptional opportunity for leadership on green infrastructure and urban parks.

IUCN Programme 2017-2020 and SDG 3 2016

The IUCN Global Programme 2017-2020 made explicit links the to the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 3 on health and well-being. The programme provides a clear policy platform for IUCN to seek new global and regional initiatives and partnerships linking the health sector with the conservation sector over the next four years.

Resolution 64 - Strengthening cross-sector partnerships to recognise the contributions of nature to health, well-being and quality of life 2016

The IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 in Hawaii served as an important event to further elevate the health and well-being agenda within the conservation sector through the adoption of Resolution 064 ‘Strengthening cross-sector partnerships to recognise the contributions of nature to health, well-being and quality of life’.  This Resolution recognises the key achievements to date and calls for greater cross-sector collaboration and improved methods for quantifying the benefits from nature to help lead change and reduce the prevalence of worldwide non-communicable diseases.  

COP 13 CBD UN Biodiversity Conference, 2016

Several significant commitments were made on mainstreaming biodiversity and health and well-being at the 2016 COP in Mexico attended by 167 countries.  Ministers and other heads of delegation agreed to work at all levels within our governments and across all sectors to mainstream biodiversity, establishing effective institutional, legislative and regulatory frameworks, tailored to national needs and circumstances, and incorporating an inclusive economic, social, and cultural approach with full respect for nature and human rights.

Salzburg Global Seminar Parks for the Planet Forum 2017

Salzburg Global, IUCN and an expanding coalition of partners addressed the critical role of nature for children’s physical, mental and social-emotional health and wellbeing. Participants adopted the Salzburg Statement on The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play which calls for all children to have the “right to a safe and healthy city” where they can play, explore, and experience nature and the outdoors. The Statement sets a cross-sector agenda for healthier child-friendly design and development, highlighting the multiple benefits of urban parks, public green spaces and nature-based infrastructure.

15th World Congress on Public Health 2017

Further progress was made in implementation of IUCN Resolution 064 through several significant events based on the theme of ‘Nature is Good Medicine’ at the 15th World Congress on Public Health, held in April 2017. These included the IUCN President, Zhang Xinsheng, and Dr Maria Neira from the World Health Organisation joining a panel to discuss the need, importance and opportunities for improved collaboration between the environment and health sectors, as well as the release of a new ‘Memorandum for Health and Nature’ - a joint statement by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Health from the State of Victoria, Australia. 


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