Healthy Parks Healthy People: The Health Benefits of Contact with Nature in a Park Context: : A Review of Current Literature

This review identifies significant research that has not previously been compiled. It provides key information for decision making by park managers, forming the basis of a program of future research to overcome the limited knowledge in this area. It builds on an earlier review (completed early in 2002 with funding provided by Parks Victoria) by addressing the health and wellbeing benefits of contact with nature in a parks context, at an individual and community level.

The review examines the potential and actual health benefits of contact with nature in a park context. Although the primary interest of this review concerns human contact with nature in a park context, the review also looks within the broader context of human health and nature. This has meant the inclusion of fields such as psychology, psychiatry, medicine, environmental economics, biodiversity conservation, ecology, complementary and alternative medicine, landscape design and urban planning, recreation and leisure, environmental health, public health policy and health promotion, adventure and wilderness therapy, and religion and spirituality.

The first part of the review comprises a discussion on public health and nature, as well as the current concerns of public health in Australia. This is followed by the connection between parks, nature and health, how parks can contribute to public health, and the need to reposition parks in terms of health. Next is a discussion on understanding the human-nature relationship that examines some current theories of the human place in nature. Evidence for the health benefits of contact with nature is presented in the following section, including the benefits arising from viewing nature, being in nature, contact with plants, and contact with animals. A brief discussion on some unique forms of nature-based therapy follows, which is then followed by a summary on the principal health outcomes of interacting with nature on an individual or personal level, and at a community level. Finally, a brief comment on policy outcomes and triple bottom line reporting, and some key recommendations are presented. There are also a
number of assertions that can be made about current knowledge of the health and wellbeing benefits of the human relationship with nature. These are included in Appendix A. Appendix B contains potential research topics and opportunities for future funding.



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Maller, Cecily (Author); St Leger, Lawrence (Author); Townsend, Mardie (Author); Brown, Peter (Author)


Deakin University, Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences : Parks Victoria, Melbourne: 2002