University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Imagining Eco-Wellness: A Scoping Review of Interventions Aimed at Changing Individual Behaviors to Promote Personal Health and Environmental Sustainability

Brandon R. Kim, MD, MPH; Maggie L. Grabow, PhD, MPH; Sarah Walters, BS; Sabrina Rateike, BS; Mary Hitchcock, MA, MLS; Bruce Barrett, MD, PhD

WMJ. 2023;122(3):216-225

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Introduction: Climate change poses enormous threats to humanity and much of life on earth. Many of the behavioral patterns that drive climate change also contribute to the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to compile and categorize the literature on interventions aimed at modifying individual behaviors to promote both personal health and environmental sustainability. Secondary objectives were to help define the emerging field of behavioral eco-wellness and to discuss future directions, including the need for assessment tools and analytic strategies.

Methods: A scoping review was conducted to locate, categorize, and interpret current scientific studies of interventions aimed at changing individual behaviors to promote both personal health and environmental sustainability.

Results: Other than a pilot study that this team previously conducted, nothing was found that strictly fit the inclusion criteria. However, we did find 16 relevant studies that fit neatly within 4 broad topical areas: active transportation, dietary intake, indoor air quality, and green space immersion.

Discussion: While this systematic scoping review found little meeting original criteria, we did find that 4 separate fields of study are converging on a scientific area that we are calling behavioral eco-wellness, defined as the simultaneous pursuit of both personal health and environmental sustainability. The emerging field could provide a conceptual framework and methodological toolkit for those seeking to enhance sustainability while supporting health behaviors, including dietary intake. This, in turn, could help to inform and motivate the urgent action needed to confront both climate change and the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Author Affiliations: University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), Madison, Wisconsin (Kim); Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, UW SMPH, Madison, Wis (Grabow, Barrett); UW-Madison, Madison, Wis (Walters, Rateike); Ebling Library, UW-Madison, Madison, Wis (Hitchcock).
Corresponding Author: Bruce Barrett, MD, PhD, School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, 1100 Delaplaine Court, Madison, WI 53715; email; ORCID ID 0000-0002-3952-4718
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Funding/Support: When this work was begun, Maggie Grabow was supported by research training grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (Grant No. T32HP10010) and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health, training award (Grant No. T32AT006956).
Acknowledgments: The authors wish to acknowledge the many scientists and authors who produced the material that this scoping review covers and especially the many experts who responded to Dr Barrett’s email inquiries. They would like to thank medical librarian Leslie Christensen for the help with the online database bibliographic search, administrative assistant Nathaniel Javid for assistance with final formatting and submission, and Barbara Sorkin, PhD, and Cathy Middlecamp, PhD, for valuable ideas and assistance with editing.
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