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Ann Ist Super Sanita. 2005;41(3):271-9.

[Ecosystem health and human health].

[Article in Italian]

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Dipartimento di Ambiente e Connessa Prevenzione Primaria, Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Rome.


The study of ecosystem health is a relatively recent discipline that has already provided new insights into numerous aspects of environmental management. One of the most interesting fields of study is the one investigating the relationships between ecosystem and human heath. In this paper some basic terms of reference are given in order to help the understanding of this new approach. One definition of ecosystem health is given, possible causes of degradation are indicated and links with human health are addressed. The ecosystem approach to human health stresses the importance of cultural and social values in shaping the concept of health, both at human and at ecosystem level. Two case-studies showing man-ecosystem interactions are described: mining activities, that provide a suitable field of application of the ecosystem approach, and the case of malaria and DDT, that shows the risks of certain policies neglecting basic human expectations such as health. As a conclusion, some suggestions for possible research activities are given and a few recommendations for sound public health policies are indicated.

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