Green Health Partnerships in Scotland - evaluation of the first three years
Green Health Partnerships are the centrepiece of the Our Natural Health Service programme which aims to encourage better use of Scotland's natural environment as a resource to improve health and wellbeing. This report published in 2022 shows the breadth of GHP activity and the extent to which they collectively achieved their five key aims during the first three years of operation (2018 - 2021). A summary is provided below, and the full report is available to download as an accessible pdf at the foot of this page.
In Scotland, the Our Natural Health Service (ONHS) programme is led by NatureScot, along with partners from national and local government and the voluntary sector. It aims to bring the health, environment and other sectors closer together to maximise ways in which use of the natural environment can contribute to improved physical and mental health and wellbeing outcomes and tackling health inequalities.
As the core element of implementing the ONHS programme, four pilot Green Health Partnerships (GHPs) were set up in 2018 to demonstrate how better cross-sectoral coordination can mainstream approaches to improving health through engagement with the natural environment. They were in Dundee, Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire and Highland. This brief summary presents an overview of how the GHPs worked to achieve their five key aims in the first three years of operation. A full report is also available.
Each GHP planned its work programme to respond to their area’s strategic plans and priorities but a common set of core measures was used to help evaluate the extent to which they delivered the following key aims:
- An increase in the number of people having contact with nature.
- Greater awareness in health professionals of the contribution of nature-based health promotion and interventions to physical and mental health and well-being.
- Public Health and Health & Social Care sectors routinely embracing nature-based health promotion and interventions for prevention, treatment and care.
- Greater public awareness of the benefits & opportunities for contact with nature as part of everyday life.
- Nature-based contributions to health mainstreamed and funded sustainably.
Monitoring data for the core measures showed that:
- GHPs facilitated or promoted nearly 550 opportunities for green health activities across all three of the ONHS ‘types’ of interaction with nature (everyday, promotional initiative, targeted intervention). Participation in these likely increased contact with nature and introduced new users to nature.
- GHPs undertook more than 440 awareness raising and capacity building activities with the data showing more than 11,500 health and social care, and nearly 8,000 green health delivery staff were engaged. The numbers and range of nature-based health promotion activities and referral pathways increased over time, showing health professionals became aware and involved.
- The GHPS reported 63 referral pathways established or facilitated. These were for a variety of client groups / health problems or situations, including clinical therapies such as cardiac rehabilitation and cancer care.
- Around 300 public-facing outreach and information activities were completed. The presence of mass media and government campaigns about nature and health during Covid-19 will have boosted GHP efforts.
- Green health / the GHPs were mentioned in 58 local policies and plans, including those focused on health. This is an important marker of mainstreaming and cross-sectoral reach.
Overall, progress towards each aim has been substantial, with certainty of progress established for some of them. The monitoring and evaluation exercise demonstrated that an increase in cross-sectoral collaboration and awareness of the potential contribution of nature to health has been achieved in the GHP areas. Going forward, the GHP model can be considered effective at facilitating green health opportunities, awareness, and capacity-building activities across sectors.
The range and volume of work the evaluation report illustrates is creditable considering the impact of Covid-19 during this period. The Lanarkshire GHP became embedded in the area health board during Year 3 and the other three GHPs were re-funded for a further two years via a consortium led by NatureScot.
It is hoped that at the end of five years of support, all four GHPs will have become mainstreamed within public health policy and practice. This aim was boosted by the publication in 2022 of the NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy 2022-26 that includes the proposed action to: establish and embed GHPs and similar approaches to increasing the use of nature-based solutions to deliver health outcomes as part of the strategy for Sustainable Care.
Full details of this evaluation summary can be found at: Mitchell, R. and Finton, B. Green Health Partnerships in Scotland – evaluation of the first three years (November 2022).
This work was co-funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) Places and Health Programme (Places MC_UU_00022/4 ) and the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) (SPHSU19) at the MRC/ CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow
Green Health Partnerships are part of the Our Natural Health Service programme supported by: