Improving the public health of societies has become of particular importance. Nature is increasingly recognized as being an influential determinant of human health and well-being. There is growing evidence that access to forest and green areas has physical, psychological and social benefits. Likewise, there is growing evidence that the sense of connectedness with nature that results from positive nature-based experiences leads to the development of positive attitudes and behaviors towards nature and its protection.

Several countries have now designed and implemented many forest policies related to using forest for human health and welfare, based on scientific evidence, including countries in Asia and North America.

Japan, for example, is the world leader on forest medicine scientific research. Since 2004, Japanese government has funded research about the health benefits of forests and currently has 62 designated forest therapy areas (Forest Therapy Base and Therapy Road) where the relaxing effects have been observed based on scientific analysis conducted by forest medical experts.

Similarly, the Republic of Korea, through the Korea Forest Service (KFS), has promoted and legalized the term ‘Forest Healing’, which implies utilizing forests for the enhancement of health and quality of life. KFS has also established national and public healing forests and national forest healing centers, while continuing to perform research on forest medicine through interdisciplinary approaches.
In 2015, the Republic of Korea enacted the Forest Welfare Promotion Act, which demands the state and local governments to formulate and implement policies to ensure that all the people are allowed to benefit from forest welfare through the promotion of forest welfare services.

Similarly, in Germany, there is a scientific approach to dedicate forest areas to health oriented use, as “cure or healing forests”. Since 2016, the country has the first healing forest in Europe, in Usedom. Also, in the German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Bavaria, for example, there is a possibility of setting these spaces, according to a set of components such as climate/microclimate, geological aspects and composition of trees and other plants.

In the United States, the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) has many years of research and study in how trees improve human health. In 2018, USFS published a report named Urban Nature for Human Health and Well-Being, which focuses in five key areas: pollution and physical health; active living, mental health and stress reduction; social health; cohesion; and resilience. The report also provides information on the best available science to help natural resource professionals, planners, architects, educators, health professionals and community advocacy groups to effectively communicate the health benefits of including nature and green spaces in their planning, activities and work.

In Canada, Higher Education Institutions, as the University of British Columbia (UBC), are promoting research related to forest therapy. UBC is currently working on forest therapy from three aspects: (1) the development of forest therapy industry and its policy around the world, particularly in Japan, Korea, China, the United States and Canada; (2) Forest therapy activities related to physiological and psychological effects on different targeted groups and (3) The key elements tied to forest environments, such as negative ions, chemicals, and landscape/soundscape/lightscape and their impact on human health.

However, there are still countries, such as Mexico, in which the benefits of nature for health and well-being have not been promoted, or at least not with the necessary scientific and institutional support needed.

In that context, in collaboration with Mexico’s National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) and the UBC with the support of the Asia-Pacific Forest Research Network (APFNet), a Webinar Series on Forest Therapy is being organized.

This Webinar Series will cover the current state of international knowledge on forests and human health; the identification of areas that would benefit from increased research on forests and human health, and will seek to promote collaboration and partnerships to facilitate related work and research.
In times of global crisis, international collaboration in health research for advancing knowledge and strengthening institutional capacity is of increasing relevance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the health systems, as well as on the economy and societies around the world. In that sense, it has become of even greater importance to look into the essential services that forests can provide to people during difficult times.

This series of webinars aims to promote forest therapy in Mexico, and to attire interest of other Latin American countries to also promote the potential of nature in public health.

This series of webinars will be conducted in English, with the possibility of being previously subtitled in Spanish at the time of transmission. The Spanish subtitles will be available in all videos when shared through social media , for later consultation.