This week we’re celebrating Green Health Week! Here we take a look at what green health is, why it’s so important and what we’re doing to encourage it.
Scotland’s great outdoors is outstanding and provides a wealth of amazing places for physical activity and connecting with nature – all of which we know can help improve our health and well-being.
The good news is that lots of people are already getting active in the outdoors, with the Scottish Household Survey showing that participation in ‘recreational walking’ increased from 56% to 70% of adults in Scotland between 2007 and 2017.
With continued pressure on public sector resources, encouraging more engagement in ‘green exercise’ such as outdoor recreation, relaxation, volunteering, play and learning, gardening and active travel can also help to bring a range of social benefits.
Scottish Natural Heritage, with partners including NHS Health Scotland, the Scottish Government and Scottish Forestry, is working to show how greater use of the outdoors can help to tackle some of our big health challenges like physical inactivity, mental health issues and health inequalities.
Four pilot Green Health Partnerships, led by the area health boards and local authorities, have been established in Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire, Dundee and Highland. They bring together health, environment, leisure services, transport, education, sport, academia, local communities and the voluntary sector to show how the outdoors – Our Natural Health Service – can support local healthcare priorities.
In a nutshell, the partnerships aim to co-ordinate increased physical activity and improvements in mental health through helping people engage with the natural environment.
A great example of this in action is the Family Fresh Air Club, a project being promoted by the Dundee partnership. Managed jointly by the council’s Ranger Service and the Community Learning & Development Team, this project helps young families at risk of social isolation in deprived areas of Dundee to access green health activities in local greenspaces.
Elsewhere, in the first year of the Lanarkshire partnership, more than 400 health and social care staff received advice about the benefits of green exercise and how to connect patient groups such as people with mental health problems, addictions, brain injuries and a range of long term conditions to local nature-based projects.
As well as Green Health Partnerships, other elements being developed include information and communications, research and the NHS Greenspace for Health projects which build on the previous NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project.
Communicating the benefits of green exercise to the public, as well as awareness raising across the healthcare sector, is vitally important. SNH has helped with the production of a short animated film to be used in a range of healthcare and leisure settings to promote the use of green places and spaces for health improvement.
The outdoors and green exercise are not remedies for all our nation’s health issues, but they can play a valuable role, and be part of achieving a healthier Scotland.
Find out more at: Our Natural Health Service