Green Health Routes
The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare works at the interface of health and the environment. As part of this we promote the benefits to health from spending time in green space and other natural places. Our Green Health Routes Programme supports communities to connect with parks, gardens and woodlands, in their local area.
We work with healthcare practitioners to develop routes that will help patients in accessing local green spaces as part of a healthy lifestyle. Our maps and leaflets and the walking groups we set up can be offered as part of a 'green prescription'. Our walks are aimed at the whole community, but we work hard to get vulnerable populations involved and enjoying green space. Medical research from around the world, collated by the University of Exeter, demonstrates how green prescriptions can deliver physiological and psychological benefits for patients. The evidence also shows that doctors are ready and willing to recommends green activities to their patients, and that effective partnership with green space organisations makes this easier to do.
How do we do it?
We engage with GPs and the wider community to encourage the use of local green space in a variety of ways:
- Identifying and mapping healthy walking routes to and through local green spaces
- Providing resources and training to accompany the routes that can be used by local people and GPs to get more people accessing green space
- Running activities to engage schools, care homes, healthcare practices and community centres
- Working directly with GP practices and healthcare professionals, as well as with park and outdoor recreation departments in councils. If you, or someone you know are interested in hosting a walk or in finding out more, get in touch!
You can download our brochure on how to get involved here: PDF icongreen_health_route_programme_by_the_nhs_forest_1.pdf
Some examples of Green Health Routes:
We are currently developing two new walking projects in Oxford - one in East Oxford, with support from the Postcode Lottery, and one in Wood Farm, with support from Awards for All. We have worked on other projects in several areas.
Marston, in Oxford, is an area with many green spaces, parks, cycle paths and walks. The health route here highlights local greenspace and is easy to follow thanks to waymarker signs on lamp-posts and leaflets featuring the route map, available at local hubs. Local GPs use the route to prescribe exercise, and weekly health walks now leave from the practice led by volunteer walk leaders. We’ve also been working with a retirement home and local schools to set up some special themed walks and nature engagement workshops.
In Jericho our route begins and ends at the Health Centre. It was designed by local people and the GPs who were involved in the consultation process. As well as the parks and green spaces publicly accessible within Jericho, this route includes a stretch of the canal towpath, and many of the area's community centres. Several guided walks with three local schools have also been a great way to get more people involved. Flyers are available for the route, as well as an interactive online map to use on mobile phones.
In Blackbird Leys we have set up four green health routes through the three parks in the area. The walks take you through the Blackbird Leys park, the Frys Hill Park and Gillians Park. Have a look here for some more info, and find out how you can take part.
Frithwood surgery, is a GP surgery near to Stroud in Gloucestershire. Healthcare practitioners there have designed a health walk from the GP surgery through the village. The GP and Practice Nurse saw this as an opportunity to engage with the local community and to demonstrate the connection between green space and health. The inugaral walk included all GP staff.