Healthy parks, healthy people – The future of public health

The future of public health

An ecological (or holistic) approach to health encompasses the health of the
whole individual and their environment, and in fact, the whole community. This approach is a logical way of managing health as it accounts for the interplay between all of the elements of health (i.e. mental, physical, environmental, spiritual, social), which can impact either negatively or positively on one another. Yet, more research is required to understand these interrelationships.

As stated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (1998; 2000), national health information is needed by consumers and providers of health services, the health industry, governments, and the community to enable informed decision- making and ensure effectiveness of treatments and interventions. National health information is any information that has national relevance and relates to the health of the whole population, the determinants of population health, health programs or services, and the relationship among these elements (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1998). According to these criteria, the health benefits of contact with nature should be regarded as national health information and be thoroughly investigated. In particular, the health benefits of parks should
have priority as parks constitute public-owned nature, and therefore have more significance nationally.

The initial evidence documenting the positive effects of nature on blood
pressure, cholesterol, outlook on life and stress-reduction is sufficient to warrant incorporation into strategies for the National Health Priority Areas of Mental Health, and Cardiovascular Disease in particular. These two disease categories place a considerable health and economic burden on Australians. However, due to the positive effects of nature on overall health and wellbeing, the health benefits of contact with nature have relevance to all National Health Priority Areas. The extent to which parks can contribute to these areas awaits investigation.


Healthy parks, healthy people
The health benefits of contact with nature in a park context
A review of relevant literature
2nd edition
March 2008
School of Health and Social Development Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences
Deakin University
Burwood, Melbourne

© Deakin University and Parks Victoria 2008
Authors Dr. Cecily Maller Associate Professor Mardie Townsend Associate Professor Lawrence St Leger Dr Claire Henderson-Wilson Ms Anita Pryor Ms Lauren Prosser Dr Megan Moore

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