The Adelaide Statement – Health and Wellbeing

  • May 05, 2024
The Adelaide Statement: Health and Wellbeing
By PLA Advisory members:

John Senior, and Steph McCallum-Keily:

The Adelaide pledge describes how we will “Champion health and well-being by advocating for the integration of health and well-being considerations into park and leisure programs, planning and design”.

Over many years PLA has recognised the significant relationship between open space and recreation to health and well-being, never better summarised in Parks Vicotria’s a mantra of “Health Parks Healthy People” introduced in 2002. An initiative based on inaugural extensive international literature review undertaken by Deakin University “The health benefits of contact with nature in a park context”. This especially concentrates on the mental benefits of seeing and being amongst the natural environment.

Since then articles in our journal and many speakers at the annual National Conferences have delivered evidence and messages on that theme, indeed Health & Wellbeing has been a regular current session stream in many conference programs over that time. In particular we have had highly acclaimed keynote speakers like Dr William Bird MBE, (Director Intelligent Health, UK) talking about ‘ Developing Healthy Lifestyles Through Parks’ and Kevin Lafferty (then Access, Health & Recreation Policy Advisor)  talking on ‘Unlocking the potential of NHS greenspace for health and well-being, biodiversity and climate change’, as part of “The Green Exercise Partnership”, an initiative of the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland).

Many Australian state and local government organisations now embody the relationship in their strategies and programs – but are we doing enough? Health and Wellbeing Queensland outline that projected obesity rates indicate that children born in 2023 may have a reduction in life expectancy of between 0.6 and 4.1 years. The linkages between play, recreation and sport have never been more critical for our children and young people and their foundational movement.

Our experience through the COVID19 epidemic showed that people enjoyed getting out in our parks and socialising with others – good for their mental as well as their physical health, and these reasons have remained higher than before the pandemic.

Of course, participation in organised and casual sport and recreational activities is good for physical well-being too but the social benefits of being part of a team or club or just a group of supporters should not be ignored. 88% of Australians agree that sport is important for bringing people together in their local communities.

All these aspects can be evaluated and are an often overlooked financial benefit.

We also need to note they type of activities people are choosing to engage with. Participation in non-sport activities has increased significantly from 2001 to 2022 including increases in fitness/gym and walking. While swimming is the most popular activity for children 0-14.

So what does all this mean? It is imperative that we as policy developers, practitioners and open space and facility managers support communities in their activity of choice, showcasing the health and wellbeing benefits physical activity while also ensuring equity of access and opportunities so the benefits of activity can be realised for all.