The Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP) Congress came to a fitting end yesterday with an inspired wrap-up with positive and concrete steps forward.
The congress was notable by its transdisciplinary nature – bringing together public health and the environment sectors with the shared motivation for casting aside any remaining doubts of the vital importance of the environment to human health and well-being. And, most importantly, it was about finding solutions for society.
The congress had almost 1100 attendees from over 38 countries with up to 20 parallel sessions. There were over 15 high quality keynote presentations which further added to the motivation and energy of conference attendees.
A number of key points raised in the final HPHP Congress plenary session. Upon reflection, it was found that the HPHP Congress:
- Articulated the same concept from different perspectives and was therefore able to reach new common ground;
- Was not simply an event but the start of an important process which captures many themes including the powerful message “We are what we care about”;
- Moves beyond ‘compartmentalization’ of social and ecological issues and took a more holistic view of the challenges at hand;
- Made explicit and cross-sectoral links between ecosystem services and well-being with a focus on education and health;
- Emphasized the need for developing countries not to repeat the same mistakes as developed countries, e.g. just as African nations are now moving their classrooms from outside to inside, European and U.S organizations are realizing that classrooms should be moved from inside to the outdoor environment to enhance the learning potential of pupils.
- Asked the critical questions:
How do we connect the dots of the Healthy Parks Healthy People message?
How do we keep the passion and enthusiasm in place?
How do we further engage with our constituencies?
How do we walk the talk?
How do we get the media to realize what is important?
How do we reach out and empower the current (lost virtual) generation to take up the Healthy Parks Healthy People message?
How do we move toward a model for engaging Head, Heart & Hands (Passion)?
How do we embrace this message and strengthen our emotional and spiritual ties to land and country, to reconnect the senses to nature and restore the spirit of community?
How do we prescribe natures and parks as preventive medicine and catalyze a far-reaching “Parks not Pills” strategy?
How do we move beyond Parks to where carry a message of sustainability into their everyday life?
So there is plenty to keep the Healthy Parks Healthy People global collective busy until the next international conference in 2012.
Some of the planned research focuses for HPHP Collective include:
- Ongoing web-based interaction
- Developing concepts and mechanisms for interdisciplinary research on HPHP
- Disciplinary data sets and interpretive tools
- Consistent, comparable and regularly uploaded data
- Robust, reliable and valid quantitative data as well as meaningful qualitative data
It is considered key to use information technologies’ to engage society as well as art and storytelling as a catalyst for balancing the rational quantitative science with the qualitative personal unique and aesthetic knowledge which is more likely to resonate with us at a deeper ‘gut’ level.
Maybe part of the reason for HPHP’s success is that, at the end of the day, the conference picks up on a message which is relevant to each one of us. A message which has become seemingly forgotten in modern society. But a simple message which powerfully speaks through millennia of existence: Linking ‘human’ and ‘nature’ is key to our existence – our human nature.