Can landscape help create healthy places? The Landscape Institute’s most recent publication, “Public Health and Landscape” states that greater priority needs to be given to prevention of ill health in public health and social care. All those involved in creating healthy places – public health professionals, planners and landscape architects – need to recognise that landscape has enormous potential to improve our health and wellbeing.
The publication sets out the 5 principles they believe are essential to the creation of healthy places:
1. Healthy places improve air, water and soil quality, incorporating measures that help us adapt to, and where possible mitigate, climate change
2. Healthy places help overcome health inequalities and can promote healthy lifestyles
3. Healthy places make people feel comfortable and at ease, increasing social interaction and reducing anti-social behaviour, isolation and stress
4. Healthy places optimise opportunities for working, learning and development
5. Healthy places are restorative, uplifting and healing for both physical and mental health conditions
Recently Landscape Interface Studio has been involved in a collaborative project based at the National Trust’s Ham House in west London which provided students with the opportunity to collaborate with representatives from National Trust, ‘Heritage-2-Health’ led by Theresa Nash of the Faculty Of Health & Social Care Sciences, St George’s Hospital, plus representatives from Children’s’ Trust, Kingston Centre for Independent Living and Kingston MIND.
Students developed design proposals and helped build a garden area within the National Trust grounds where local residents could access garden spaces to grow their own food. The garden offered the opportunity for people who might feel isolated or excluded from local community interactions to take part in horticulture and encouraged them to become more integrated into local social networks. The LI report quotes that almost 90% of people taking part in a recent Mind study said that doing physical exercise outdoors in a natural environment was either important or very important in determining how they felt. Another report also comments on the health benefits of spending more time outdoors, “Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression” Berman, MG et al. J Affect Disord. Nov 2012.
Landscape Interface Studio is keen to pursue this area of public health and landscape design and will seek further funding to support similar projects.
Illustrations: Landscape Institute