Parks for London launches toolkit to help managers highlight health benefits of parks

Parks for London has launched a toolkit aimed at helping assess and present parks as vital health assets.

Tony Leach speaking in Ruskin Park - image: HW
Tony Leach speaking in Ruskin Park - image: HW

The Health Parks Toolkit was developed by Tisdall Associates and:

  • assesses and highlights how parks can be improved to achieve better health outcomes.
  • measures how much parks are sustainable, good for people, promote biodiversity, and protect and encourage wildlife.
  • demonstrates improvements through objective assessment
  • aims to use parks more for ill-health prevention.

Parks for London hopes the toolkit will become a central component of the approach to parks in London, and allow parks to better integrated into primary care and ill-health prevention. It has been trialled in Lambeth, south London, on Ruskin Park, Denmark Hill, and now public health consultatant Dr Bimpe Oki is working on a further study which will inform funding bids for park improvements.   

Speaking at the launch attended by councillors, park professionals, health professionals and park volunteers in Ruskin Park today during Mental Health Awareness Week, Parks for London chief executive Tony Leach said: "Health is, or rather should be, the golden thread that runs through our parks - from their conception to their provision and use today.

"Thankfully, through the research work of the University of Exeter and many others we have an evidence base that shows that parks are good for our health. It supports what we intrinsically always knew but it provides a robust case for investing in these green assets.

"Scientific research demonstrates that parks play a central role in the prevention and treatment of avoidable ill-health. What has been needed to date, is an objective evidence-based toolkit, to assess parks and green spaces against that evidence, and to provide clear guidance on community initiatives, improvements and new interventions which can increase the health status of a park."

Detailed research by Fields in Trust found that parks, open spaces and the natural environment save the NHA around £111 million per year, on reduced GP visits alone, and estimated that frequent use of parks and green spaces added up to £34.2 billion worth of wellbeing benefits to the UK as a whole.

Scientific evidence supports the use of appropriately-designed and well-managed parks and green spaces to provide several important health benefits:

  • Reduced all cause morbidity.
  • Reduced prevalence of obesity.
  • Reduced prevalence in avoidable conditions and co-morbidities related to CHD, type 2 diabetes, strokes, some cancers and hypertension.
  • Improving mental wellbeing, including dementia, and alleviating stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Mitigating environmental risk factors for health and enhancing biodiversity.

Parks custodians are invited to try Tisdall Associates' free survey which explores how any park can be improved to promote the health of its community. The landscape consultancy then offers further assessments and reports in three tiers, starting at £195 for an audit and £395 for a basic assesment, including VAT. It has produced a video to explain the toolkit.

Health Parks: Explainer from Health Parks on Vimeo.


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