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Healthy Futures #6: The Natural Environment, Health and Well-being

Document type:SDC Reports & Papers
Download:HF6-final.pdf - 608 KB
Summary:imageAs the incidence of mental illness continues to rise, there is growing evidence that exposure to the natural environment can make a significant contribution to health and wellbeing. There are real opportunities for local authorities, spatial planners and NHS professionals to make this connection, helping to reduce the costs of ill-health to the NHS and economy.

With the largest property portfolio in Europe, the NHS can make the most of what’s been called this ‘natural health service’. The current NHS building boom is an unparalleled opportunity to ensure that healthcare buildings are constructed with access to or a view of the natural environment – be it gardens or trees.

The natural environment – everything from parks and open countryside to gardens and other green spaces – can play an important part in promoting and maintaining good health and well-being. It can also aid patient recovery. As part of the NHS’s commitment to sustainable development, healthcare organisations can incorporate elements of the natural environment into the design of buildings and estates in ways that will contribute to a healthy community, economy and environment. As an influential organisation in local decision-making, the NHS can help tackle health inequalities and promote health and well-being by working with local partners to ensure that the natural environment is a prominent feature of the community and easily accessible to all. This can help to relieve the NHS and the wider economy of the financial burden of ill-health.

This publication is the sixth in a series that explores the NHS contribution to sustainable development. It recognises the strong association between mental and physical health, but focuses on mental health and well-being, looking at how and why the NHS should promote contact with the natural environment.

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