New research finds increased funding, leadership and networking is needed to grow the impact of nature based health activities in Scotland.

A new report “Growing the Impact of Nature” commissioned by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and delivered by Nick Hopkins of Nick Hopkins Consulting explores key issues underpinning the delivery of nature based health activities in Scotland.

The research comprised of a series of interviews and a survey exploring practitioners’ and health professionals’ views on the extent of provision across Scotland, their perception of its impact and what is needed in the future to support the sector to grow.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Nature based health activities are viewed as being potentially transformative for people, “lighting” or “sparking” something in them and having a positive impact on both people’s mental and physical health.
  • Reducing anxiety, reducing risk of crises, boosting self confidence and supporting social connections were all cited as positive mental health benefits resulting from engagement with nature.
  • There is a great variety of activities delivered across Scotland, particularly by the Third Sector. However, there are still geographical gaps in provision and access to activities can often be a matter of happenstance.
  • There was general agreement that the NBHA sector is not currently large or varied enough to cope with demand from people who could potentially benefit.
  • That a step change is needed to embed nature based health activities in the health and social care system, and to overcome current barriers such as limited and short term funding.

For this step change to take place the research also identified a number of crucial supporting elements:

  • Specific national and local funding for nature based health activities.
  • Increased leadership at both strategic and local levels.
  • Skill development at all levels to support practitioners, policy makers and commissioners develop their understanding of, and capacity to deliver nature based health activities.
  • Build further effective and embedded referral pathways.
  • Establish cross sectoral links between the benefits of nature based health activities which other agendas such as: climate change and biodiversity; food growing and healthy eating; and person centred health care.
  • Develop and nurture local networks to support mutual learning, referrals and creativity.
  • Continue to generate and communicate high quality qualitative and quantitative evidence on the impact of nature based health activities.

The full report is available to read in both word and PDF form in the resource list below.

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