Working with Dr Simon Maxwell of the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs‘s Environment Analysis Unit, we have co-authored a comprehensive Evidence Statement on the links between natural environments and human health. The aim of the evidence statement is to inform Defra’s policies and service delivery.
The statement addresses:
- the direct and indirect linkages between natural environments and health,
- variation in impact between social groups,
- the importance of the type and quality of the natural environment,
- dose-response relationships,
- the effectiveness of different intervention options,
- the monetary values of benefits, and
- key evidence gaps.
Importantly the statement also considers the implications of the evidence base for current and future policy and delivery.
The review shows that there is now a substantial and increasingly robust evidence base which supports the growing interest in using the natural environment to promote good health and wellbeing.
The statement concludes:
…the evidence highlights a need for more integrated policy and delivery across the health and natural environment sectors at a wide range of spatial scales. Integrated policy and delivery is also required to help recognise and take account of multiple benefits. Even if the health benefits of a particular form of contact with nature are small, public investment may still be justified if there are benefits across a wide range of other policy domains. There is a need to learn lessons from other sectors and wider evidence on influencing behaviours and securing transitions across systems. Policy and delivery should aim to encourage and enable people and organisations to behave differently to improve health outcomes and benefit the natural environment.