The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR)

Healthy Parks Healthy People SA

A large amount of research has demonstrated the strong connections between contact with nature and human health and wellbeing, including physical and psychological health, and social and cultural wellbeing.

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) and the Department for Health and Ageing (DHA) have a long-standing relationship around many issues, and a history of successfully collaborating on a number of policy areas of mutual interest.

The aim of this PHPA is to set out the parameters for collaboration between DEWNR and DHA, and provides a basis for DEWNR and DHA to work in partnership to build public value of parks in South Australia, and improve the health and wellbeing of populations through a combination of broad policies, programs and targeted initiatives.

A key outcome of this partnership has been the development and implementation of the Healthy Parks Healthy People SA (HPHPSA) approach. HPHPSA is a nature-based approach for simultaneously improving population health and environmental outcomes - enabling the environment and health sectors to work more closely together and focus resources towards implementing innovative approaches to health and wellbeing and conservation.

The framework ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People South Australia 2016-2021: Making Contact with Nature, Second Nature (PDF 5.7MB) sets out seven focus areas: promoting physical activity in nature; mental health benefits of contact with nature; promoting the cultural value of Country for Aboriginal health and wellbeing; community health and wellbeing in a changing climate; childhood development and nature; green infrastructure and urban settings, and biodiversity, conservation and human health. The Healthy Parks Health People SA information sheet (PDF 438KB) provides a short summary of the framework.

Over the framework’s five-year lifespan, action plans will be rolled out, guided by a leadership group co-chaired by the Chief Executive of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and the Deputy Chief Executive of the Department for Health and Ageing.

To date, three of the seven focus areas have been actively progressed, including the release of two action plans.

Focus areas update

Focus areas:

Mental Health Benefits of Contact with Nature

The Mental Health Benefits of Contact with Nature focus area recognises that nature can provide wide-ranging benefits for mental health and wellbeing. There are many opportunities for nature to be incorporated into strategies for treating mental illness; engaging with nature is also an important approach for the prevention of mental illness and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing.

The first Healthy Parks Healthy People SA Action Plan ‘Realising the mental health benefits of contact with nature (PDF 2MB)’ was launched in October 2016. This Action Plan recognises that investment in upstream mental health promotion strategies can lessen the demand for downstream treatment of mental illness. This plan outlines the role of nature in mental health prevention and promotion and presents a series of short term outcomes aimed to strengthen this approach as part of the HPHP SA framework.

The first key action outlined in this action plan, is developing a discussion paper providing evidence and opportunities to support the governments mental health agenda, including the Suicide Prevention Strategy 2017-2021 and the SA Mental Health Strategic Plan 2017 -2022. This discussion paper Connecting nature and parks to mental health promotion and mental illness prevention strategies in South Australia (PDF 2MB) was finalised in May 2017. A two page summary of this work has also been developed (PDF 484KB).

The discussion paper outlines a number of key recommendations: to incorporate priorities for the prevention of mental illness, and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing in both the 2017 SA State Strategic Mental Health Plan developed by the SA Mental Health Commission, and the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist’s update to the SA Suicide Prevention Plan. A final recommendation, to develop a 5 Ways to Wellbeing in Nature Campaign, modelled on the evidence based 5 Ways towellbeing originally developed by the New Economics foundation in the UK is also presented. The HPHP SA 5 Ways to Wellbeing in Nature campaign was officially launched in December 2017.

The following links provide more information on the strategies related to the implementation of the Mental Health Benefits of Contact with nature focus area of Healthy Parks Healthy People SA:

Promoting the Cultural Value of Country for Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing

The Promoting the Cultural Value of Country for Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing focus area recognises that Connection to Country is a critical component of Aboriginal culture and is recognised as an important determinant of Aboriginal health and wellbeing. Opportunities in the health, environment and Aboriginal sectors to inform an Action Plan for this priority focus area continue to be explored.

The project working group consists of representatives from DEWNR, SA Health, the Department of State Development – Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, and the SA Aboriginal Chronic Disease Consortium (based at SAHMRI). NGOs from the Aboriginal sector have also been invited to participate in project planning.

Green Infrastructure and Urban Settings

The Green Infrastructure in Urban Settings focus area recognises that living within an accessible distance of parks and other green spaces enables wide-ranging health benefits. Urban green spaces are also important for providing ecosystem services, such as keeping our cities cool, and supporting native biodiversity. The need to improve urban greening in communities is growing, particularly as the density of our urban environment increases. Green infrastructure is a broad policy area and current work under this focus area is aimed at enhancing the ‘quality’ of urban green public spaces.

Quality Green Public Space

University of Melbourne and RMIT University researchers were commissioned to complete an evidence review of how quality green space supports health, wellbeing and biodiversity (PDF 1895KB). The report, released in March 2017, shows that green spaces can be designed to provide multiple benefits. The paper also outlines that greening solutions are complex. This highlights the need for practitioners and academics to work collaboratively across disciples and sectors to maximise the impact of green spaces, including trees.

The second Healthy Parks Healthy People Action Plan, ‘Quality Green Public Space’ (PDF 1293KB) was released in August 2017. The plan will guide action to promote the greening of the public realm. The South Australian Planning Reform and the implementation of the 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide provide unique opportunities to better integrate quality dimensions for green public open space into new developments and existing neighbourhoods.

The Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative is working with multiple partners to deliver on the Action Plan. Its vision is that green public space is planned, designed, delivered and managed to provide the quality elements necessary to support health, wellbeing, biodiversity and ecosystem services. The partners include:

  • the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, SA Chapter
  • the Office for Design and Architecture SA
  • Water Sensitive SA
  • the Heart Foundation, SA Division, through the Active Living Coalition.

The collaborative work also links to the Public Health Partner Authority Agreement between SA Health and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.

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