This project will address government’s need for greater understanding of how investing in the environment can benefit our health, and work specifically to promote good mental health among young people in the region.
A rapidly growing and diverse range of policy and practice is premised on the beneficial impacts of natural environments for human health and wellbeing. In this project, SWEEP aims to address some of the knowledge gaps in this area, with a view to promoting natural capital for social and economic benefits.
We will work in partnership in SWEEP case study areas and across the region to inform and support stakeholders to implement and improve connections between environmental improvement/protection and population health. Specifically, our work will impact spending supporting mental health, and leading to improved mental health among young people in the region, including targeted investment in natural environments for health outcomes.
The project involves partners from within the core SWEEP region and also extends this further within the South West in order to develop wider opportunities and impact and to capitalise on regional excellence.
The programme of work
Working with key stakeholders in the environment and health sectors, a suite of four linked activities will develop over the two years of this project. We will consider a range of relevant environments and locations (marine/coastal, terrestrial, urban, rural) reflecting the breadth and diversity of opportunity in the region.
Activity 1 - Actor and action mapping: Guidance production
A series of stakeholder workshops and online consultations will be used to:
- Identify key organisations and opportunities in the South West for health improvement through
- Build a cross-sectoral network of these stakeholders to share resources, practice and evidence of what works.
- Establish and share existing regional good practice and policy.
- Co-produce an information resource for environment and health partners giving practical guidance on how and why investment in the environment can improve health.
An initial workshop, led by the project partners, will establish the network, and will refine priorities and desired outcomes of the two year programme based on those specified below.
Activity 2 - Case study: The environment and young people’s mental health
This section of work will take a focused, case study approach to consider a critical challenge and opportunity: young people’s mental health (particularly mid-late teenagers).
The team will look for interventions and approaches that support young people’s mental health through investment in and use of the natural environment – for example social prescribing or green gyms.
Stakeholder network members will be consulted to establish opportunities, barriers and actions around investing in
environments for young people. Critically, we will run focus groups with young people to establish acceptability and ideal characteristics of environmental interventions that could be designed to benefit both mental health and the environment.
Activity 3 - Building a business case and guidance
It is clear that in order to justify investment in the environment to promote and improve health, a sound business case is required.
A number of studies have estimated the potential health and related economic impacts of natural environments and health interventions that make use of them. This activity will draw on existing evidence to undertake a comprehensive review and build a business case suitable to underpin future investment. This business case will help to guide investment, and highlight opportunities.
Activity 4 - Stakeholder review and evaluation
To ensure that the outputs of activities 1-3 are relevant and actionable, a workshop will be held with stakeholders identified during activity 1. This will allow stakeholders to offer feedback, indicate their level of commitment and identify routes through which project outputs could lead to long-term change.
Kate is an Impact Fellow for SWEEP 005, working with farmers to explore different options for them to engage with natural capital in the North Devon Biosphere. Kate joined Exeter University in January 2018. She has previously worked for the North Devon Biosphere and as the animal conservation course manager at North Devon college in partnership with Plymouth University.
Ben Wheeler is a Senior Research Fellow at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter Medical School. He has a BSc in Environmental Science and a PhD in Social Medicine, and has previously worked in medical schools and geography departments in the UK and New Zealand. Ben has a wide range of research interests in environment-health interconnections, but primarily applies geographical and epidemiological methods to examine the impacts that the environment can have on human health. Recently, Ben has been working to use the research to inform health and environmental policy at various scales, from Cornwall Council, to Natural England to the World Health Organisation.