A study on forests’ contribution to human health


  • Local development
  • Etifor
  • Italy
  • 2017-2020
Alternative uses of Forests for Health and Wellbeing

If we tell you that forests are good for us…it’s not surprising isn’t it? We know forest ecosystem provide us clean air, drinking water, more stable soils and also food. But if we tell you that spending time in the forests is good for your mental health, that it can enhance self-confidence, or help in fighting inflammations and even cancer, would you be surprised?

Nowadays, more than half of the global population is living in cities nowadays and modern life-styles, stressful working conditions and overstimulation by technology, have negative influence on our physical and mental health. Indeed, poor mental health, ageing population and increasing costs for the sector, represents the rising health challenges to be tackled worldwide.
In this context, forests are gaining momentum as privileged ecosystems where people can positively benefit from contact with nature for physical, psychological and social wellbeing. Forest-based initiatives can be tools to reduce public health care budgets on one side, and create new and diversified sources of income for the forest sectors, fight land abandonment and keep diversified forest-stand types. This create new space for economic and rural development not just through tourism, but also through education, health and other sectors.

The problem

Nevertheless, scientific research is still mainly focused on measuring health benefits, and we know very little on these initiatives, their business model and how they deliver health-socio-economic benefits to people and communities. Success factors, opportunities and challenges presented by these new forests utilizations are still not thoroughly explored in research and literature. These initiatives are often not documented in ways that make it easy for others to learn, compare different models and replicate positive examples. There is the need of research that enables forest owners and managers to learn about forest-based initiatives for wellbeing, replicate and design suitable management solutions. Along with that, there is the need to inform policy makers and set up the enabling environment to support investment and economic activities in the forest sector.

The solution

During the three-year PhD research project, Ilaria Doimo, our candidate will:

  • Outline a comprehensive state-of-the-art of this forest-based initiatives for health and wellbeing
  • Develop a framework for understanding these initiatives that enables to identify different organizational and business models that determine the success of these initiatives. This will be helpful for forest managers and practitioners
  • Assess if these are economic sustainable opportunities for the forest sector and which are the main challenges, so to inform future sector policies and research needs

Our contribution

Etifor is financing a 3 year PhD research project in Forest’s Policy and Economics at TESAF Department at Università degli Studi di Padova.  The PhD candidate is working side by side with Etifor team who is giving her technical and practical support creating a mutual and fruitful exchange of knowledge and experiences.

For more information:
Ilaria Doimo
ilaria.doimo[at]etifor.com