Health research is having impact

For many years green space practitioners have expressed frustration at the seeming failure of a growing armoury of research proving the link between health and provision of quality green space, to make an impact in the public policy arena. Instead parks and other green spaces have continued to be on the receiving end of disproportionate funding cuts.

In this issue, we report on work taking place - this time a collaboration between i-Tree and the University of Illinois to calculate an individual's 'green envelope' which will then be mapped against stress levels. Lead researcher Dr William Sullivan has recently found a "positive, linear association" between street tree density and self reported stress recovery. It's fascinating stuff, but can it make a difference?

Absolutely, says Dr William Bird, the leading proponent of the health benefits of green space in the UK, who tells HW this week of a significant change among health practitioners who now 'get' the link between health and horticulture.

"Ten years ago I would have said no (they don't understand), five years ago a few of the leading ones; but the evidence that is coming through now is so strong that actually I don't think you'll get any doctor now saying this is waste of time."

But there is a new battleground - the pressing financial problems the NHS now faces against which the relationship between health and horticulture - even while now taken seriously by practitioners - may be seen as a "distraction".

Countering the risk can only be achieved by pressing the investment case, so spend on green spaces - whether community gardens, as Bird aims to encourage, or other facilities - is seen as a potential saving, not a cost.


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