Government advised to align gardening policies

Gardens & Health, a report published by the King's Fund focusing on the beneficial links that gardens and gardening have with public and individual health and well-being, launched on 17 May, has recommended Government departments align their policies to support gardening and its benefits for health.

Jane Ellison MP, parliamentary under-secretary of state for public health, said awards have been made to design "safe and appealing green space" under schemes such as Healthy New Towns. The report has a "real weight of evidence" that gardening and using green space is good for health and health commissioners should not "hold back" from social prescribing, she added.

The report links access to parks with an impact on obesity levels and reducing mental health admissions. It adds that the impact of "green gyms" and community referral schemes shows where gardening can reduce demand on services and improve outcomes.

David Buck from the King's Fund wrote the report, which was commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme. It recommends:

- The Department of Health, Defra and the Department for Communities & Local Government should align their policies that impact on gardening and gardens. They should identify gaps in evidence and make it easier for their delivery chains to support gardening and its positive health impacts.

- The role of gardening in supporting health should be considered as part of three of the NHS five-year forward view key programmes - New Models of Care, Healthy New Towns and Social Movements for Health.

- Public Health England's role in evidence collation and dissemination can and should be used to support the role of gardening in improving and maintaining health by recommending GPs prescribe gardening to patients.

- Key influencers in the health, environment and gardening and horticulture sectors need to develop a joint strategy to better influence policy on gardens and health and help ensure their sustainability.

- Greenspace Scotland (2011) has collated a wide range of social return on investment studies, including on community growing initiatives.

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