Nature-based interventions

Shanahan, D.F., Astell-Burt, T., BarberE.A., Brymer, E., Cox, D.T.C., Dean, J., Depledge, M., Fuller, R.A., Hartig, T., Irvine, K.N., Jones, A., Kikilus, H., Lovell, R., Mitchell, R., Niemelä, J., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., Pretty, J., Townsend, M., van Heezik, Y., Warber, S. & Gaston, K.J. 2019. Nature-based interventions for improving health and wellbeing: the purpose, the people and the outcomes. Sports 7, 141.

Engagement with nature is an important part of many people’s lives, and the health and wellbeing benefits of nature–based activities are becoming increasingly recognised across disciplines from city planning to medicine. Despite this, urbanisation, challenges of modern life and environmental degradation are leading to a reduction in both the quantity and the quality of nature experiences. Nature–based health interventions (NBIs) can facilitate behavioural change through a somewhat structured promotion of nature–based experiences and, in doing so, promote improved physical, mental and social health and wellbeing. We conducted a Delphi expert elicitation process with 19 experts from seven countries (all named authors on this paper) to identify the different forms that such interventions take, the potential health outcomes and the target beneficiaries. In total, 27 NBIs were identified, aiming to prevent illness, promote wellbeing and treat specific physical, mental or social health and wellbeing conditions. These interventions were broadly categorized into those that change the environment in which people live, work, learn, recreate or heal (for example, the provision of gardens in hospitals or parks in cities) and those that change behaviour (for example, engaging people through organized programmes or other activities). We also noted the range of factors (such as socioeconomic variation) that will inevitably influence the extent to which these interventions succeed. We conclude with a call for research to identify the drivers influencing the effectiveness of NBIs in enhancing health and wellbeing.