£2.2 billion public health payoff from green spaces

Ben Williams's picture

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare welcomes a study, reported in the journal “Preventative Medicine”, which has calculated that the public purse benefits to the tune of £2.2 billion each year, from people using public parks and green spaces for healthy exercise.

Dr. Mathew White from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health analysed use of green spaces and the health benefit derived from this use, to express this benefit in terms of Quality Adjusted Life Years, from which the financial benefit was then calculated.

As well as deriving the total value of this benefit, the report also identified a key socio-economic factor within the data, that people from more deprived backgrounds were less likely to benefit from access to green space than those from more affluent backgrounds.

Rachel Stancliffe, Director at CSH, said “to see the benefits of access to green space quantified through such robust research is outstanding. As well as the social and financial benefit of these preventative measures, there is also a significant environmental benefit as well through reduction in energy and carbon intensive treatment pathways”.

Ben Williams, Programme Lead for NHS Forest and Green Space at CSH said “while we welcome the overall positive tone of this research, it still underlines a fundamental inequality in healthcare – that those most in need of intervention are least likely to access it. Through the NHS Forest we have been developing green spaces and health improvement initiatives right at the point of care and in the heart of neighbourhoods, enabling and encouraging people from all walks of life to benefit from these spaces.”

The NHS Forest, managed by CSH, has worked with over 160 healthcare sites across the UK, creating green spaces for health benefit. The Forest is now working with its sites to explore how a greater range of clinical outcomes can be derived from the use of the sites. Ben added “as well as the physical benefits of exercise and access to green space, we are also seeing significant use of NHS Forest sites for mental health and Occupational Therapy interventions, and we look forward to working with practitioners to develop tools that will enable them to make the best possible use of their local green spaces”.

Further information can be found on the ECEHH website at http://www.ecehh.org/news/green-exercise/

More information on the NHS Forest can be found at www.nhsforest.org

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