- Health security is typically conceived of as the activities required to mitigate risks, or to respond to acute events that endanger population-level health across international boundaries.
- Social-ecological systems are inextricably linked to health security, whereby both natural and anthropogenic environmental changes have cascading impacts on an array of health security issues, with some unresolvable uncertainty as to their timing, scale and distribution.
- A key challenge for health security is to promote effective action across sectors and disciplines to promote intersectoral action on the multiple environmental and community determinants of health in ways that support just and healthy outcomes for all species and humans (i.e. respecting ecological as well as environmental rights).
- Integrative approaches to understanding ecology and society and their implications for health resonate with the early conceptualizations of health security.
- Global environmental change will exacerbate existing inequities across dimensions of human security, but particularly in health status.
- A key challenge for health security, particularly in an era of growing natural and anthropogenic environmental change, is to promote effective action across sectors and disciplines to promote intersectoral action in ways that support just and healthy outcomes for all; being mindful of interactions between an existing security concern and those that have existed historically but may also manifest into the future; incorporating multiple environmental, community and cultural determinants of health into an analysis of security by engaging with diverse land-use values; and leveraging lessons from multiple fields of research to engender nuanced understandings of health security to promote human rights.
.Extension Activities & Further Research
- How is climate change related to health security? Describe some examples.
- Pick a bioregion (e.g. in the lower Great Lakes or the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest) and describe what elements of its composite ecosystems and social systems contribute to health security or health insecurity?
- In what ways might governments work to redress the health security implications of global ecological change?
- What do you think the most important ecological and social determinants of your health are at this point in your life?
- Who is most impacted by global environmental change as it relates to health security issues?
- Scales are important and can be illustrated by a “zoom in, zoom out” mental exercise (adapted from Parkes & Horwitz, 2016):
- Think of your current environment and try to imagine both the living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) parts interacting with another living thing, such as yourself? How do social dynamics influence these interrelationships?
- Zoom out from that specific interaction to your neighbourhood. Do you see more life yet? What other species do you see that make up this social-ecological community? What species do you not see? What things move and interact the most? How might they affect your health security?
- Zoom out farther, to the borders of the bioregion in which you are currently located. Does what you are seeing look more or less alive? Do you visualize this view as a roadmap or as a satellite image? Can you see evidence of social-ecological crises from this vantage point?
- Once you have a large-scale (regional in a continent) view in your mind’s eye, consider three questions:
- How would this view have looked different five years ago? And potentially look 10 years from now?
- Identify two positive and three negative determinants of health security for each of these time frames at this scale.
- Give three examples of where you can see (imagine?) the atmosphere (air), geosphere (rock, land) and hydrosphere (water) interacting to support life within the view you see.
- Websites that can help you experience these features of zooming in and out through social and ecological contexts include what is your ecological footprint? and The Scale of the Universe. Specific papers also explore the ways in which these dynamics may assist interdisciplinary learning (e.g. Galway et al., 2016).
List of Terms
See Glossary for full list of terms and definitions.
- ecosystem services
- food security
- health security
- social-ecological systems
- water security
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Figure 17.1 long description: Graphic composed of three layers of ovals enclosing each other. The outermost oval is labelled “Macro social, political, economic and ecological context of resource development projects.”
The second oval reads “industry-related pressures to social, economic, cultural and ecological processes” and “interactions with past, present and future land uses.”
The third and innermost oval is labelled “resulting and interralated changes to local context.” This oval contains four boxes that detail the determinants of health in the areas of social, environmental (or ecological), cultural, and economic change. They are described in an unordered list below:
- Social determinants of health
- Demographics and migration
- Social relationships
- Crime and safety
- Family dynamics
- Racial/ethnic impacts
- Gender impacts
- Food security
- Ecological determinants of health
- Air quality
- Water quantity/quality
- Soil and sediment
- Climate change
- Ecosystem services
- Wildlife health
- Cultural determinants of health
- Cultural practices
- Connection to culture
- Local, traditional foods and medicines
- Connections to lands/waters
- Language use
- Intergenerational impacts
- Economic determinants of health
- Income and income distribution
- Economic systems
- Cost of living
- Community investment
There is a fifth box that partially overlaps the four others. It is labelled “Health Impact Areas” and contains the following:
- Mental health
- Communicable diseases
- Substance use and related harms
- Sexual health
- Health behaviours
- Chronic and acute illness
- Health equity
Figure 17.2 long description: Map labelled “Northern British Columbia Overview: Change in industrial land-use.” The map shows approximately the most northerly two-thirds of British Columbia, including the islands of Haida Gwaii to the west and a small section of the eastern border with the Rocky Mountains and Alberta. This map was created in July 2018 for the Cumulative Impacts Research Consortium in Prince George.
The map shows that the northeastern section of the province, from the corner to the area approximately Fort St. John, saw a lot of industrial activity pre-2006. The central part of the province, radiating outward from Prince George, also saw significant industrial activity pre-2006. Along a few key pathways in the province, where a number of towns and First Nations communities are clustered, there has been industrial activity from 2006 to the present.
Figure 17.3 long description: Circular chart titled “Reciprocal relationships between the health of humans, animals and ecosystems.” In the centre of the circle is a three-piece pie chart that is surrounded by bubbles describing various health concerns. The pieces of the pie chart are at the top level of the following unordered list, while the bubbles are described in the sub-bullets:
- Political ecology of health
- Environmental health justice
- Nested ecological scales
- Ecological public health
- Planetary health
- Host/vector interaction
- Occupational environmental health
- One health
- Adapted from Aldis, 2008, pp. 371-372