, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 244–252 | Cite as

‘Ecological embeddedness’ and Its Public Health Implications: Findings From an Exploratory Study

  • Marina LewisEmail author
  • Mardie Townsend
Original Contribution


Western culture over the last two centuries has become significantly ecologically ‘dis-embedded’, with nature increasingly reduced to resources for human use. The consequence is global environmental degradation, including accelerating climate change. Much recent research supports associations between nature contact and human health and well-being, and between feelings of nature-connectedness and pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours. The oft-cited Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (WHO, Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, 1986) emphasises human–environment inextricability; however public health discourse and response has not fully engaged with this recognition. This qualitative study explored the attitudes, motivations, and experiences—including formative influences—of six individuals whose behaviour was congruent with recognition of human–nature interconnectedness; such individuals may be understood as ecologically embedded. Key aspects of participants’ experience, identified through grounded theory thematic analysis, were (i) connecting with nature (especially in childhood); (ii) seeing the threat and taking it personally; (iii) the nature of reality; (iv) dedicated beyond the ego-oriented self; and (v) sustaining the eco-centric self. The findings highlight the necessity for cross-sectoral advocacy at all levels of government policy development focused on recognition of human–environment connectedness, especially bridging health, planning and education policies affecting children. Only thus will both population health and ecological health on which population health depends be possible.


ecological embeddedness ecological public health socio-cultural determinants 



The authors sincerely thank the article reviewers for their thoughtful and helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Health and Social DevelopmentDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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