Resources By Theme Health & Wellbeing

Health & Wellbeing

It is well known that the natural environment plays a positive role in people’s health and wellbeing. In the UK there are major opportunities to ensure the environment plays a greater role in preventing and treating ill health, as well as promoting wellness. Further action will deliver benefits for people, for organisations responsible for health and for local economies.

This page is an ideal starting point for those wishing to explore this topic, whether they work within the core parts of the health system or beyond.

Starting points

The evidence base

Economics of the positive links between environment and health
  • The impact of the Connswater Community Greenway Project in East Belfast on physical activity has been evaluated by researchers at Queens University Belfast. This includes estimates of the value of savings due to reductions in the occurrence of chronic diseases.

  • The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies has evaluated the economics evidence base for health promotion and disease prevention. While not addressing the specific question of improved access to the natural outdoors, it summarises the challenge of making an economic case for preventative healthcare.

Introductions to evidence and good practice
Green prescriptions and social prescribing

Resources for particular environmental settings

The rural environment
  • The Institute of Rural Health has produced a review of evidence relating to health, wellbeing and the natural environment. This was undertaken for the Countryside Council for Wales (now Natural Resources Wales). While focused on the Welsh context, the report contains guidance that is applicable elsewhere. It gives suggestions for how health and well-being is incorporated into the work of organisations with a traditionally ‘environmental’ remit.

Urban greenspace
  • The report Policies to improve the UK’s urban green spaces, produced by Policy Exchange in 2014, suggests a wide range of proposals to improve local green spaces, including the creation of Park Improvement Districts and a social prescribing audit (where GPs refer patients to non-clinical sources to support mental and physical health).

Around healthcare facilities
  • The NHS Forest is a UK-wide project coordinated by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare. Among the project’s central aims are to improve the health of staff, patients and communities through increasing access to green space on or near to National Health Service land.

  • The Forestry Commission has produced a guide on the design of outdoor spaces around healthcare facilities.

Analytical tools
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency has produced the EnviroAtlas Eco-Health Relationship Browser to demonstrate the links between ecosystems, the services they provide, and how those services may affect people.

  • WHO/Europe’s Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for walking and cycling is an online resource to estimate the economic savings resulting from reductions in mortality as a consequence of regular cycling and/or walking. It enables users to estimate the value to health of new infrastructure, policies or programmes.

Forums and networks