Making the Most of Green Space for People’s Health: Principles of Successful Interventions

Provision of sufficient quantities of appropriate green space is only one element of successful action to promote health.  There are other factors that contribute to ensuring health benefits are maximised and that all groups and ages can access these benefits. On this page you can find evidence based guidance on the principles of successful green space interventions for health outcomes to support our Making the Most of Green Space for People’s Health guidance.

What to we mean by “Green Space”? In these documents we intend it to include the full diversity of green and blue spaces from parks and gardens to beaches to countryside footpaths.

You can find primary evidence to support the statements on this page on the Making the Most of Green Spaces for People’s Health: Supporting Documents and Research  papers page.

EVIDENCE BASED PRINCIPLES OF SUCCESSFUL INTERVENTIONS

There are a number of principles that can be highlighted for successful interventions, these have been identified from literature and from practical examples, such as those highlighted in the accompanying case studies:

  1. To maximise the potential benefits of green space you may need to take a dual approach of physical improvements to the space alongside social promotion activities.
  2. Accessibility of green and blue space needs to be consideredThis includes the distance from home to the nearest green space, as well as the ease of access to the space (Is there a safe walking route, including road crossings? Is there public transport? Can those who are less mobile access the space?). It is also affected by the facilities provided inside the space and the familiarity of different groups with visiting green spaces. It is also important to consider how the capabilities of the local community and context might impact accessibility.
  3. The quality of the green space has a significant impact on benefits. This covers both the ecological quality (planting and biodiversity) and the condition of the space. The types of area that exist, appearance (well maintained, no litter, etc) and facilities are all important.  It is essential to include different types of space and offer a variety of activities to ensure that different groups can use and access the space, to maximise a green space’s potential and to encourage a wide range of groups to use the space. It is possible to create a virtuous circle – good space, people use and support, better maintenance, space is improved and maintained, etc.  Inclusive design is a key factor when developing a new green space or when revitalising an existing space.
  4. Community engagement is key for maintaining green space, maximising use and overcoming inequalities by reaching out to disadvantaged/potentially excluded groups. Community engagement is most effective when it is in place right from the start of projects to help understand barriers, social and cultural issues and perceptions of safety. Outreach and promotion activities are of paramount importance to ensure that urban green spaces are used by a diverse range of population groups and provide a setting for all local residents. These interventions are particularly useful for introducing those with little experience of green space to what is available. It is important to understand the barriers that exist for different groups using green space, as well as a mechanism for breaking down these barriers. Examples of community engagement include:
    • Promotion of green spaces through websites, onsite signs, brochures, etc using sensitively designed promotional materials.
    • Facilitated activities and public events such as family days, sports events, festivals and markets.
    • Small scale group activities, such as guided walks or green gyms.
    • Collaboration with local organisations to help run and maintain the space, and to plan and design facilitated activities and events.

In addition, there other factors in successful intervention design and delivery that are worth considering:

  • Green spaces need sustained investment not just initial capital – maintenance and clearly being ‘cared for’ is important in perceived safety and promoting use.
  • Interventions require collaboration between different departments and sectors to maximise benefits. These include environment, planning, public health, health care providers and civil society organisations. This requires multi-disciplinary teams and a whole system approach.

These are principles that can be applied generally, but contexts vary, so it may not be possible to replicate existing projects in a new setting.

THE ‘TRIPLE WIN’

Successful projects can have a triple win:

  • Improve health
  • Reduce health inequalities
  • Support environmental sustainability 

Where these multiple benefits are fully appreciated and evaluated, the costs are more likely to be justifiable.


Visit other pages of the Making the Most of Green Space for People’s Health guidance guidance

You can download a PDF of the Making the Most of Green Space for Peoples Health guidance from this link.

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