Forests and Human Health

Since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was published in 2005, pioneering studies have demonstrated that ecosystem change and biodiversity decline can adversely affect human health. The World Health Organization describes three channels for such effects.


  1. Deforestation and other changes in forest ecosystems can increase floods, heatwaves and other extreme weather events that, in turn, can affect human health.
  2. Changes in forest ecosystems can increase the risk to infectious diseases, diminish food security and access to medicines, and have negative effects on mental health.
  3. Changes in forest ecosystems can have indirect impacts on human health, e.g. by displacing forest-dwelling people to the edges of the cities where they have reduced access to clean water and sanitation provisions.


Yet considerable gaps in the evidence remain. The Forest Collaborative is developing a unique multi-country research project to help fill those gaps, initially focusing on pathway #2. Leveraging the Collaborative’s skilled researchers and policy contacts, this initiative supports a suite of synergistic studies that use spatially-explicit health post-level data along with quasi-experimental statistical techniques to identify the effects of forest cover and forest cover change on a variety of human health outcomes. The studies pay special attention to tracing out the behavioral and policy mechanisms that mediate and moderate the links between forests and human health, how these links differ across diverse populations, and to their distributional effects. 

Updated: 8 May 2020