Strengthening policy, practice and investments in nature for human health and wellbeing 

South West UK
Project Code: 020
Harnessing the latest scientific evidence, SWEEP has delivered innovative resources and approaches that have strengthened a large network of cross-sectoral partnerships and influenced more robust and equitable investments, policy and practice, in the environment for health outcomes.

Project team

Project Lead
Sian de Bell
Impact Fellow
Ben Wheeler
Academic Lead
Becca Lovell
Academic Lead
Kate Hind
Impact Fellow
Karyn Morrisey
Academic Collaborator
Andrew Edwards-Jones
Impact Fellow
Elaine Fileman
Academic Collaborator
Elizabeth Gabe-Thomas
Academic Collaborator
Mel Austen
Academic Lead

Case Studies & Reports


Why it matters

Increasing evidence shows that spending time in nature leads to longer term improvements in our physical, and mental health and wellbeing, and delivers £2.2bn health benefits each year in England via physical activity alone.  With rising public health challenges such as obesity, poor mental health and the impact of the recent pandemic, there has never been a greater need to access the health benefits of nature. Yet many of us live more disconnected from nature than ever before. 

The UK Government’s 25 Year Plan outlined a need for strengthening understanding of health outcomes of interventions through environmental investments. A growing and diverse range of policy and practice has ensued, but lacks key elements for maximising human health and nature benefits – critically, cross-sectoral working between the health and environment sectors and strong scientific evidence underpinning how best to invest in green and blue spaces. 

Image credit: Jon Flobrant – Unsplash


SWEEP’s work has contributed to closer working relationships between the environmental and health sectors in the South West. This type of cross-sectoral working is key to our success in delivering interventions that target nature-based health outcomes.

Richard Sharpe, Cornwall Council

What we did

We have strengthened cross-sectoral learning, working and investment in nature for health outcomes in the South West, and beyond, primarily through the development of: 

  1. A cross-sectoral network of stakeholders in the South West – via an online hub with >118 users representing all sectors of society, environment and health, both within and beyond the South West. This has provided a vital space for sharing regional good practice, policy and resources, delivering 11 public-facing cross-sectoral webinars to >1000 people, stimulating debate. SWEEP also co-created a suite of 12 evidenced-based resources, disseminated via the network. 
  2. A business case for investing in nature for health – drawing from two academic databases (Web of Science and SCOPUS), SWEEP created its database with > 500 papers connecting environmental interventions with health outcomes. Providing evidence of how health benefits can be realised through natural resources investment, this was used to produce 7 bespoke evidence reports used to successfully support partner’s business cases for investment in the environment for human health outcomes. 

Impacts & benefits

  • New, bespoke, evidence-based resources shaping conversations and new ways of thinking at strategic and project level – the process of co-creating 12 innovative nature-based health resources, and the resources themselves, have played a vital role in boosting stakeholder’s confidence, credibility, and capacity to deliver nature-based health outcomes. This has sustained and increased levels of engagement, accelerating and improving decision making, policy and practice.
  • Enhanced cross-sectoral working – providing a space for networking and connection, especially during the challenging pandemic, has led to greater cross-sectoral sharing and working between the health and environment sector: a vital component for effective investment in more inclusive, sustainable nature-based health outcomes.
  • Accelerated and enhanced nature-based health and wellbeing delivery across a wide range of organisations – e.g. SWEEP’s work is strengthening strategic thinking and project evaluation approaches at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust; local business sales and product development at Slyvawood Seeds; the equitable delivery of health benefits on Dartmoor National Park; the delivery of Plymouth City Council’s Green Minds Derriford Community Park; the implementation of Health and Nature Dorset (HAND); business cases at Cornwall Council; the delivery of PH Dorset’s Healthy Places programme; the evidence base, and thus the credibility, of the NATURE tool.
  • Strengthened regional and national policy and strategies with robust evidence – e.g. Cornwall Council’s 2023-2028 Social Prescribing Strategy, Dorset LEP’s strategic policy development, and Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s contribution to Somerset’s new 6,140 hectare ‘super’ National Nature Reserve.
  • Contributed to environmental enhancement and safeguarding – via SWEEP-informed investments in health interventions, that extend over 1402 m2 of the South West, and beyond.
  • Enhanced health and wellbeing benefits for local populations and visitors – through engagement with the nature-based health interventions delivered across this 1402 m2 area.
  • Delivered partner profits and cost-savings – through SWEEP undertaking this work and adding value by strengthening business cases, leveraging >£2.43m funding, increasing Sylvawood Seed’s forecasted revenue by 38%, and creating/safeguarding 5 jobs.

SWEEP has provided valuable evidence-based work that plays an important part in helping to drive the agenda for a ‘right’ to nature – where we are investing in enhancing our natural resources to create spaces that make us happy, and save money on health treatments.

Luke Pollard, former Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Looking to the future

The value of SWEEP’s work has been widely recognised. Our partners confirm that through its robust scientific evidence, strong partnerships, advisory roles and ongoing work, SWEEP’s impact will continue across the South West and beyond. For example, strengthening: 

  • Local Nature Recovery Strategies and Local Plans, delivering health and wellbeing outcomes.   
  • National policy, and business cases for investments in nature for health outcomes e.g. Environmental Land Management Schemes. 
  • Green social prescribing schemes.  
  • Flagship programmes such as Future Parks Accelerators enhancing green spaces, and innovative ecosystem services tools such as the NATURE tool.