Population Health

October 26, 2022

Interdisciplinary approach to mitigating human health impacts of prescribed forest fires

Image of a wildfire at nightThe health impacts of smoke from forest fires are rising with the recent increase in fires due to climate change. Managing forest health through smaller prescribed fires is necessary to mitigating the intensity of wildfires, but the smoke from these fires simultaneously creates negative human health effects. To address this issue, a team of experts led by the University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy assembled an interdisciplinary team of experts to strike a balance between protecting human health and utilizing wildfires for forest management purposes.

The group reached a consensus to provide six statements that include recommendations and acknowledgements with the goal of promoting the health of both people and nature. One of the statements acknowledges the Indigenous practices of controlled burning and the importance of recognizing these practices as Tribal knowledge that Western science has only recently begun to utilize for sustainability. Other statements emphasize the preparation and planning necessary for communities to minimize the health impacts of controlled fires. Additionally, promoting equity and interdisciplinary action in every step of these sustainability practices is a key theme of the six statements.

These six statements will serve as a blueprint for addressing disparities and improving community preparedness moving forward. By continuing to employ a multidisciplinary approach to addressing the disproportionate effects of smoke exposure on different communities, the researchers hope to work toward ensuring clean air for communities despite the necessity of using fires for forest health.

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