The relationship between water resource management and the ‘upstream’ determinants of health is emerging as a new portfolio of research, policy and practice. This development is informed by growing attention to ecosystem management in the context of watersheds (also known internationally as catchments or river basins) and the potential ‘win-win’ of integrated strategies that improve both health and sustainability within these settings. Beyond the traditional health sector concerns of water and sanitation, sustainable and equitable watershed management can be seen as an upstream driver of the determinants of health – with influences ranging from reducing poverty, to sustaining livelihoods, cultural values, food security and lifestyles.
Drawing on an integrated framework for health and sustainability Margot will discuss integrated watershed management as the basis for an ecosystem approach that improves social and environmental determinants of health. The demand for this kind of work will be discussed in the context of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health; and Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health. The development of an ‘Ecohealth & Watersheds’ initiative by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and Network for Ecosystem Sustainability & Health will be discussed, drawing on specific lessons from watershed and catchment initiatives, with examples from New Zealand, Canada, Hawaii and Ecuador.
The session is intended to highlight challenges and opportunities of watershed management as a meso-scale setting for cross-sectoral governance, with the potential to enhance health and sustainability in local, regional and international contexts.
Dr. Margot Parkes is a CIHR Research Fellow (Initiative in Global Health Research) at the College of Health Disciplines, Institute for Aboriginal Health and UBC Dept of Family Practice, University of British Columbia.