What is the nature of synergy


People have always used and designed their living environment. In doing so, they conquered a number of natural health risks through technological and hygienic advances with positive consequences for human health. In return, the unsustainable use of natural resources creates new health risks. Nowadays, e.g. climate change, degraded water resources, spread and recurrence of infectious diseases, loss of biodiversity as well as air and noise pollution in the urban living environment are considered to be significant dangers for future generations. To reduce risk, but also to maintain salutogenic, health-promoting environmental conditions, the protection of nature and resources has meanwhile been assigned a high priority in the international discussion within the framework of preventive health protection. In Germany, these two comprehensive disciplines and fields of action have undergone a significant change in the past two decades:
- The natural reserve sees itself - apart from exceptions - increasingly as an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary socio-political field of action to ensure sustainable resource management, favors participatory approaches instead of regulatory measures and seeks new cooperation partners to improve its image.
- The preventive health protection has to face a multitude of newly assessed risks, some of which are environmental, and a cost explosion in the healthcare sector. In the course of risk reduction and the further development of health-promoting living conditions, there is an increasing opening towards environmental disciplines.
These developments result from experiences and learning processes in science, society and politics that are partly internationally and nationally controversial. Nowadays, both fields of action have one thing in common (not synonymous with implementation) of a holistic view of the human-nature system. Various interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary fields of activity such as natural and perceptual psychology, medical geography (or geography of health), naturopathy, ecosystem and biodiversity research, ecological health promotion and health tourism have addressed the close interlinking of nature and well-being for more than a decade or health. The advertising industry has also taken up this strongly emotionally charged connection. Against this background, it is astonishing that in Germany the potential connections between nature conservation and preventive health protection have received little attention in science, politics and planning.
Goal setting
From a salutogenetically oriented, medical-geographical perspective, the present work systematically examines previous research and action fields of nature conservation and preventive health protection for existing content-related and conceptual synergies and possible synergy potentials. Its aim is to identify common fields of action in science, politics and planning and to name particularly beneficial research and action options for nature conservation, preventive health protection and other cross-sectional areas.
In addition to the analysis of the scientific discourse and the assessment of perception in the population, the focus of the study was a nationwide postal survey of 158 opinion leaders, decision-makers and actors in nature conservation and health protection and other interdisciplinary fields of work using standardized questionnaires. The results were evaluated descriptively and statistically and subjected to a principal component analysis. In addition, in-depth interviews were carried out with 18 experts using a partially structured guide. The interviews were evaluated qualitatively and the position of the experts in a network of actors was modeled. With the help of these procedures, it was possible to obtain a detailed picture of the mood across the various disciplines and to identify communication barriers in order to finally be able to evaluate concepts, strategies and fields of action with regard to their strengths and weaknesses for a link between nature conservation and preventive health protection.
The social perception the subject is divided into two parts. While connections between nature and health are omnipresent in everyday life, specific nature conservation measures are viewed critically and only in exceptional cases (e.g. drinking water protection) associated with preventive health protection. Nature conservation as global protection (e.g. protection of biodiversity, climate protection), on the other hand, is perceived as an indirect protection of human health.
The scientific-conceptual discourse deals in detail with the human-nature relationship and shows relationships between the "factor nature" (as a service provider and resource) and health and well-being. References between the explicit protection of nature and an immediate health meaning are limited - apart from a few exceptions in recent years - to the international resource protection and sustainability discussion. However, some promising approaches (e.g. ecological health promotion, therapeutic or health-promoting landscapes, EcoHealth) were also identified.
The postal survey showed that the actors in the five work areas examined (nature / environmental protection, health, environment and health, urban / regional development, local government) are fundamentally open to the topic, especially in the cross-cutting issues of environment and health and urban / regional development. In the work areas of nature / environmental protection and health, which are particularly relevant here, the reactions were generally more restrained, with the respondents from nature / environmental protection frequently assessing the potential of a conceptual combination of protection strategies to be significantly lower than all the others. The reasons for this crystallized on the one hand the disdain for their own strengths and on the other hand the persistent view of nature conservation as an ethically justified end in itself, at least among some of the respondents. In addition, especially in the Interviews As a fundamental difficulty, the clear departmental responsibilities and distribution of competencies as well as the resulting structural horizontal and vertical communication barriers are emphasized.
Building on the recommendations for action derived, it is now necessary to strengthen existing research fields, identify further fields of action, reduce competitive situations in an intensified dialogue and promote synergies. Because nature conservation and preventive health protection are predestined in science and politics for strategic alliances that need to be exploited.


Nature conservation, health promotion, health protection, prevention, medical geography, nature conservation, health promotion, geography of health

Classification (DDC)
550 Earth Sciences570 Life Sciences, Biology610 Medicine, Health710 Landscaping, Spatial Planning

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