Healthy Nature, Healthy People
A fantastic Australia study investigating ‘Healthy Nature, Healthy People’ discusses the importance of contact with nature for health and how this principle should become a public health promotion and intervention for the Australian population.
Western modernisation has doubled our life expectancy while simultaneously creating massive differences between our ancient and present ways of living. These differences are creating relatively new and dangerous diseases that can develop in our later lives, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer. There are also many mental and behavioural social health problems that are becoming a burden on our public health system and economy. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health disorders currently constitute 10% of the global burden of disease, with that figure set to rise to 15% by the year 2020. Now more than ever, countries around the world require effective and integrative public health strategies, investigating urban population habitats.
This study seeks to examine the potential use of human contact with nature as an effective and affordable health promotion intervention for populations.
Contact with nature can occur in a number of ways. For example, the healing effects of simply looking at a natural view are increasingly being understood in stressful environments (like hospitals, nursing homes and remote military locations) as a means of relieving that stress and improving well-being. Another scenario is being in nature, such as local parks, because it presents us with an environment that is calming and disconnected from a stressful workplace. Evidence even suggests that mental fatigue is most effectively relieved by a walk in a park.
Of course, more studies have demonstrated the value of contact with nature in health. Beil, (2016), has evidence to support that usable green spaces, such as local parks, can affect children, finding statistically significant associations between landscape and health-related quality of life. He discusses the importance of children’s exposure to nature as early in life as possible in order to instil an ethic of environmental stewardship, as well as encouraging outdoor play and engagement (2).
Our public health system should ensure that the recommendation of being in our local natural environments is promoted as a health intervention. Future suggestions include forming partnerships between health and environment sectors, promoting the well-being benefits of being in nature, promote contact with nature in schools, and encourage workplaces to provide access to nature.
To read more, click HERE to read the full article.
- Maller, C, Townsend, M, Pryor, A, Brown, P & St Leger, L 2006, ‘Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion interventions for populations’, Health Promotion International, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 45-54.
- Beil, K 2016, ‘Usable green spaces can affect children’s health-related quality of life and BMI’, Natural Medicine Journal, vol. 8, no. 91, pp. 18-19.